mercredi 31 août 2011

Invitation: 'Writing Out of Asia' Roundtables

‘Writing Out of Asia’ (Perth, 2-5 December)

Open Roundtables on Teaching Creative Writing in Asia, Translation, Editing, and Literature as a Bridge Between Cultures

An Initiative of the Asia-Pacific Writing Partnership in conjunction with

The 14th Biennial Symposium on Literatures and Cultures of the Asia Pacific Region

Asia-Pacific Literature and Culture in the Era of the Digital Revolution’

The Westerly Centre, University Of Western Australia

The Asia-Pacific Writing Partnership (APWriters) invites registrations for its Roundtables led by short provocations. ‘Provocateurs’ include Xu Xi, Alvin Pang, Harry Aveling, Kate Griffin, Wendy Wright, Isagani Cruz, and Shelley Kenigsberg among others. For more details about this and associated half-day workshops on Prose Narrative, Poetry, Editing and Translation see

For Symposium details, see

Call for Papers: Tropics of the Imagination 2011 Conference

Dear Friends,

I warmly invite you to propose papers for the 2011 Tropics of the Imagination conference to be held on Monday 31st October and Tuesday 1st November, at Rydges Esplanade Resort, Cairns.

This conference welcomes papers and presentations from anyone with a professional interest in imaginative, creative or artistic work in the tropics, including artists, art-workers and administrators, and academics.

Papers are invited in the fields of artistic, imaginative, and creative responses to or representations of the tropics. Areas to be explored include (but are not limited to) writing (both imaginative and non-fictional), drama, performance, cinema and photography, painting, sculpture and design, music, and ethnic and indigenous cultural expressions.

Special themes for the 2011 conference:

Environment as Character

Diversity and Inclusion

Sensuality, Sensitivity and Creativity

Abundance, Wholeness, Well-Being

Hidden Tropics: the unspoken, the invisible

Voices of Place and Habitus

Papers should be of 20 minutes duration. One-and-a-half-hour (11Ž2) sessions will include 3 papers of 20 minutes each with 10 minutes each for questions and discussions. Suggestions for collaborative themed sessions are welcome.

Proposals for papers (up to 50 words) should be sent to:

The Convenor, Stephen Torre
Tropics of the Imagination Conference
School of Arts and Social Sciences
James Cook University

P.O.Box 6811
Cairns, QLD. 4870. Australia
or by E-mail to:
or by Fax: (07) 4042 1390

Deadline for proposals: Friday 30 September

Papers accepted may be resubmitted for peer review. Successful papers will be included in the proceedings of the conference which will be published as a special issue of etropic: electronic journal of studies in the tropics ( Dates to be advised.

Full details of the conference are available on the web:

Best wishes,


Flag this message Dickerson, Blackman, Boyd & others this weekend

mardi 30 août 2011

In the spotlight: Female-only literary prize

Caption: Sophie Cunningham says female writers need an award. Photo: Luis Enrique Ascui

Female-only literary prize puts gender on the agenda

Gabriella Coslovich
August 29, 2011

"FED UP with women being overlooked for literary prizes, sisters are doing it for themselves and establishing Australia's answer to Britain's Orange Prize for fiction, which is open to women only.

Australia's version will be known as the Stella and, at $50,000, will be slightly more lucrative than Britain's £30,000 ($A46,400) prize - although sponsors are still being sought. The Stella will also differ from its British counterpart in that it will be open to all genres of writing by women, not just fiction.

Spurred on by the abysmally low showing of women on the literary prize circuit, an 11-strong group of Australian women, including author and editor Sophie Cunningham, have been working towards establishing the Stella since March, and will be launching the prize this Friday in Melbourne."

Read more:

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vendredi 26 août 2011

FICTION PIECE: The Wake of Joe Blight, by Richard-Warren Strong

My heartfelt thanks to
author Richard-Warren Strong for offering this short story to my blog readers. Enjoy !
If you want to read more of his fiction, please click here:


Copyright: Richard-Warren Strong

The bloke who came into my office next day looked a bit like Clancy of the Overflow. He had a scarred sunburnt face with deep-set grey eyes. He wore a wide-brimmed felt hat, riding boots, dirty jeans, and a well-worn leather jacket. He came slowly into the room, sat down carefully, and took off his hat. And the story he had to tell corresponded perfectly with the look. In short, abridged, corrected, etc., it amounted to the following. He had found a treasure on Great Keppel Island then bought a house in Rockhampton with the proceeds from it. He had a daughter who lived in England, who had told him about this treasure, buried somewhere on the island, and he had found it himself. But there was also a curse that went along with this treasure. First of all, short-term memory problems. Then identity problems, and finally an obsession with sea shells.

So now he wanted to get rid of it. Showed me a tin box which contained two hundred grand, he said. And asked me to plant it in a particular spot on Great Keppel Island. (A spot which I won’t say here, so as to avoid intruders.) He was going back to England now, he said, to find his daughter. He also showed me this manuscript which he had written about it, to explain it all. Said he wanted me to read it, and then to put it back in the tin box, along with the two hundred grand. The whole thing was to be buried in this particular spot, on the island. Said he would give me twenty grand to do all this - anonymously, without being seen or heard. Now twenty grand tax-free with no hitch was just what I needed, at the time, after a few lean months. So I accepted.

(But first of all I read his manuscript!)



And that was when I sat down to write this story. I had recently bought a house in Rockhampton for fifty grand. It was a ‘Queenslander’ with verandahs on all four sides, built on stilts. I had bought it with the treasure I found on Great Keppel Island. I had it from Heidi. (Heidi is my daughter, she was born in England twenty-four years ago.) She had it from a guy she knew whose uncle knew someone who had told him about a treasure buried somewhere on Great Keppel near a sand pit, with some shells around. I knew Great Keppel Island well enough to know where to look first, on the very southern tip of the island. I dug there and I found an old tin box with two hundred grand in dollar banknotes, plus a note that read: ‘This is the curse of Joe Blight’ Who was this Joe Blight character? No idea. I thought, ‘So what, who cares anyway?’

So I had this two hundred grand in used bank notes and I bought a square timber house with it, in cash. They didn’t ask me any questions at the solicitor’s office. I would simply have said that I had kept it under the mattress, or stowed away in a bottle or a jar.


At the end of the first week the roof blew off. There was a big storm. I thought, ‘So what, I’ll have a new roof fitted.’ That cost me thirty grand. I thought, ‘So what, I’ve still got one hundred and twenty grand left.’ So I settled into this house, which I won’t describe yet. Who was Joe Blight? And what was this business about a curse? I had new plumbing done in this house, because the pipes were all leaking. It cost me another twenty grand. But I thought ‘So what, I’ve still got one hundred grand left.’

Then the rains came. It was the rainy season again. It rained heavily, but the house stood up alright, being built on stilts. The whole area was flooded, the river overflowed, but that was OK by me.

So there I was, in my old Queenslander, pleased as Punch to own my own house, for once in my life.


I am probably the most honest guy you will ever meet in your whole life. In the Sydney Botanical gardens there is a wishing tree. You walk around it seventeen times in each direction and then you can make a wish. I said to myself: ‘fame or fortune!’ Two days later I spied a pink money bag, lying on the ground beside some people who were sitting at a street café in front of Darling Harbour. When I saw this bag, instead of picking it up to look inside, I stooped down to show the person who was sitting nearby, as though it had fallen onto the ground. She picked it up without even looking, and put it on the top of her shopping bag. Didn’t seem to show any kind of surprise or gratitude, or anything like that. So I thought to myself, ‘You can kiss goodbye to fortune: that was your luck from the wishing tree! Only thing left now is fame.’

But Heidi came to the rescue a few months later, with this story about a treasure buried somewhere on Great Keppel Island. Heidi lives in England now, but she was here in Australia on holidays. I didn’t tell her at first about finding this treasure, kept it all to myself. She would tell the guy who had told her, who would tell the person who had told him, and so on. Then one day somebody would front up to the door and say, ‘G’day, I’m Joe Blight. You owe me two hundred grand!’ Or words to that effect.

I wondered what was in that pink money bag. Left behind by some wealthy American tourist, no doubt. Crammed with bank notes, new dollar bills. Or just a few odd items: a comb, a notebook, an address book, a mobile phone.

I forgot about the whole thing. Then one day, out of the blue…


But not so fast. We must keep some suspense in this story. It appears that Joe Blight was the name of this old guy who ran a café and shell shop on Great Keppel Island. He had found the treasure about thirty years ago and set himself up in business there, on the island. Never breathed a word about it to a living soul until he decided to sell his business and move back to the continent. So he sold it for three hundred grand and put two hundred back in the tin, and then he buried it in the sandpit. For thirty years he had used this treasure, and then he put it back where it belonged. Why? Well the answer is tied up in the curse of Joe Blight.


A few months later, I was in the local pub one Saturday night and I started talking with my neighbour at the bar. He told me a funny story about the treasure on Great Keppel.

“There’s a treasure buried over there somewhere on Great Keppel,” he said, to start with. “I got it from this old guy who had lived on the island for more than thirty years. Had a shop there that sold sea shells. Said his name was Joe Blight. Said he had found a treasure in the late sixties, and buried it when he left the island, in the same place as where he found it. I asked him, “Where’s that?” and he said:

“Can’t tell you, mate. Otherwise I’ll be the victim of the curse of Joe Blight.”

Now I said nothing about the fact that I had found this treasure myself. ‘So what,’ I thought. ‘Let them keep looking for it.’ So in the end I was just lucky enough to have come looking for the treasure at the right time. A few weeks earlier, or a few months later, and it might have been gone, for another thirty years.

“And what is that curse, mate?” I asked him.

“Can’t tell you, for the same reason - I’d be the victim of the curse myself.”


I am probably the luckiest guy you will ever meet. Before that, I’d been living in Brisbane in a house that just collapsed one day, fell into the excavation they were digging beside it to build a skyscraper. I went out for a walk one afternoon and when I came back later the place was just a pile of rubble. That’s my luck! Fortunately the house was empty at the time. Nobody was hurt. But that gives you an idea of the kind of luck I was having at the time.

So I thought ‘So what, I’ll go to Rockhampton.’ And I did. And then I got a letter from my daughter Heidi, telling me about this treasure buried somewhere on the island in a sandpit near some shells. I had already been over to this island some years before, and I knew all the hiking tracks off by heart. And I knew it had to be on this spot which was a former burial place, at the extremity of the island.

Anyway, I figured that I would be OK for so long as I put the tin back in place in due course, with two hundred grand in it. But where was I going to find two hundred grand? I had no income at all. Just the remains of this two hundred grand, now down to one hundred. But one hundred grand, for me, would last a long time, I thought. I had no expensive habits. Spent about one hundred bucks a week at most, on food and drink. So at that rate, one hundred grand would last about one thousand weeks, i.e. nineteen years and twelve weeks. Of course there was inflation and all the rest to be considered, and at the age of fifty-six… But the future would look after itself, I figured. So I thought, maybe I’ll take out some life insurance, and the young man who came to the front door next morning was selling life insurance. I wanted to take out a policy for four hundred grand. But I would have to pay in two hundred bucks per week (eight hundred bucks per month, that makes nine thousand six hundred bucks per year.) However could they make money out of this business? Only if people were to live for ever.

I said, “Give me a copy of the insurance policy and I’ll read it through. Come back the day after tomorrow and I’ll sign it for you.”

But I never saw him again. Rang the local insurance broker two days later and he said the guy had left the country. Mentioned something about the curse of Joe Blight.

‘Well I never!’ I thought to myself, or words to that effect. ‘How on earth would he have known about the curse of Joe Blight?’

Then I noticed that I had signed the contract using the signature, ‘Joe Blight’; and I began to have hallucinations about sea shells.


At that point I started getting a bit worried. ‘What is this curse?’ I said to myself. ‘You turn into Joe Blight, and then you start having obsessions with sea shells.’

I thought about that old guy who had spent thirty years on the island, with his shop selling sea shells, and who said his name was Joe Blight. But then I thought: ‘So what, I like sea shells anyway. Worse things can happen. And as far as obsessions go, what’s wrong with sea shells? Combing the beaches on Keppel Island day after day. Etc.. Indeed, worse things could happen.’

So I forgot about it all. Then one day, out of the blue…

But not so quick. A week later the house burnt down. It was insured though, so I thought to myself, ‘So what, I’ll just have it rebuilt.’ So I had it rebuilt with the insurance payments. That took about six months. But I was still about fifty grand short. Now I was down to fifty grand. And I thought ‘So what, fifty grand should last me for about ten years anyway.’


And then one day this young bloke came up to the front door, and he said: “G’day, I’m Joe Blight. You owe me two hundred grand.”

I said, “Explain yourself young man before I call the police.” He said: “My grandfather (Joe Blight) died a few weeks ago, and in his will it said: ‘I have buried a treasure of two hundred grand on Great Keppel Island. Find it, and it’s yours!’ So I hired a private detective in Brisbane and he found you. You are the only person to have bought a house in the area and paid for it in cash over the last two years.”

I said: “Even if your story were true, young man, that would give you no claim at all to the two hundred grand. I could leave the Sydney Harbour Bridge to my nephew in my will and that would not give him any rights to it at all. From a strictly legal point of view you would have no claim to that money.”

He sneered at me and said with a nasty look in his eye: “But from a strictly illegal point of view….” And at that point he pulled a dirty big revolver out of his bag and he pointed it straight at me. “From a strictly illegal point of view, if you don’t have that two hundred grand by this time tomorrow afternoon, you’d better run for your life!” And with that he walked away, swaggering off down the street, after putting his gun back into his bag. I thought ‘So what,’ but I was on the next outbound McCafferty-Greyhound bus for Cairns before midnight.


I made several stopovers along the way though, and at every place I stopped at someone told me a similar story about the place. There was supposed to be a treasure buried somewhere on Magnetic Island, near Horseshoe Bay among the rock formations. There was a treasure buried near Airlie Beach somewhere in the forest. There was a treasure buried in the Whitsunday islands near the South Molle tourist resort. And so on. And each time there was a curse attached to it. For one it was the curse of Jim Jones. For another it was the curse of Bill Brooks. And so on.

I thought ‘Well now, this is a funny business. Why do all these people want to bury a treasure somewhere on these tropical islands in North Queensland?’

And then it struck me. ‘It’s just a hoax to bring the tourists here; they are the gold diggers! You say there’s a treasure buried somewhere and then you set yourself up in the hotel business! Tourism is like a gold mine, in North Queensland.’

So I went on up to Far North Queensland, to Cooktown.

I stayed there for about six months, until my fifty grand had come down to twenty grand. And then I thought to myself, ‘Well, maybe he’s forgotten about me by now.’ So I went back down to Rockhampton and I started writing this story.

But suddenly, one day, out of the blue… But don’t worry, that’s not all yet.

It’s time for me to describe this house in detail… It was square in shape, with windowed verandahs on all four sides. The main entrance was at the rear, with steps leading up to the verandah there, which was closed in like a kitchen, with windows. There were also stairs at the front, but unused. The house had three main rooms on either side of a corridor leading from the front to the rear entrance. Beyond the kitchen was a bathroom, also on the same rear verandah. Along the other side were two small bedrooms, each with a window and door, leading onto the verandah. On the other side was a living room and dining room, near the kitchen. All the verandahs were windowed extensions of each room. So the rooms had no direct light. The house was set about six feet above the ground and surrounded by a trellis. Part of the area beneath it was used as a shed. The other part led onto a driveway coming from the street, and could be used to park a car. It was empty, except for some old furniture, a few logs of wood and other odds and ends, a clothes line for example. The front yard was quite small, the rear yard a bit larger with a street on one side, since the housing lot was on a street corner, while a narrow path ran along the other side, beside the neighbouring house. The whole house was quite small, about twenty feet square. Part of one verandah was used as a dining room; the verandahs were about two feet wide, the rest had a sofa and chairs.


Well it took me about two weeks to write this text, up to the point that you are reading now. Then I went across to Great Keppel Island again. I took the old tin with me, dug a hole at the usual place in the sand, and then I left it there, empty, just to see what would happen. I went back to Rocky next day and one week later I saw a picture in the paper. The guy who had threatened me had been found in a Brisbane suburb in a contortionist position, resulting from an overdose, it said. This looked very suspicious indeed to me. Perhaps all this talk of a treasure hunt was just a cover up for a drop-off spot for crack or heroine, or something like that, I thought. So I went back to Keppel, and there indeed I found something new in the tin box. Not the two hundred grand in used bank notes this time, but a brick of dense white powdery stuff in a transparent plastic package. So this was the delivery and they would be back soon for payment, I thought. I suppose they come in a boat, drop anchor just off shore, and then swim in.

There were no boats around now, and this was not even a major haul, just a drop-off spot along the line. They would keep cruising up the coast towards the north, and then come back down later for the two hundred grand at each spot. But Joe Blight wouldn’t be coming back here this time around. And where were the dealers?

Perhaps I should go and tell the police, I thought. Or even the Feds, if the Queensland police are too corrupt. Which they might be, after all.

I left the tin can where it was, buried in the sand with this white brick in it. Then I went down to the offices of the Federal Police, in Brisbane. This was right near the house that had fallen into a hole. While I was walking around, wondering what the hell to do, I ran slap bang into a lamp pole, stuck right in the middle of the footpath. It knocked me out cold.

When I woke up it was already evening, and dark. No-one had even bothered to disturb me, they must have thought I was just blind drunk. I said to myself, ‘This must be a sign, a signal (from above). Don’t go to the Feds yet.’ So I caught the next train back to Rocky.


I went back over to Keppel Island and I looked in the sandpit again. Had to do all this at midnight, so as to avoid intruders. And lo and behold, the brick had gone, and there instead was two hundred grand, in brand spanking new banknotes! I thought, this stuff is all numbered, and it looks far too clean. Don’t touch it! And they must have this place surveyed by now. From a boat moored not far away, for example. I went off to hide in the bushes nearby. And I didn’t budge from there until dawn. Sure enough, several small boats cruised by during the night. But no-one came to the beach, where my footprints were now plain to see. You can’t erase your own footprints in the sand, except by making new ones, in the opposite direction. Now if the cops were to come looking for the dealers, I thought to myself, and they found me here, then I would be in a Right Royal Predicament. So I caught the next ferry back to Rocky.

I went into the nearest pub and I got drunk. When I got drunk, I began to shoot my big mouth off. And before long I had told the whole story, about the treasure on Great Keppel Island, and all the rest. People at the bar came over to listen to me, until I had got through to the very end of the story. Then I staggered home to sleep it off. I thought, ‘No-one will believe me anyway. They will think it is just another one of those tales people like to tell in pubs, a tall story.’


About two and half years later this very mean-looking bloke came up to my front door and said: “Remember that story you told one night in the Heritage pub in Rockhampton, about a treasure buried on Keppel. I went over to the island a few days later just on the off chance that it was true. And I got arrested for drug trafficking! While I was fossicking in the sand pit among the shells, the cops came by the dozen and took me away. I’ve just done a two-year sentence for it. They wouldn’t believe a word of it when I told them about the treasure. ‘Lay off it,’ they said, ‘We are angels and you are our fairy godfather!’ I told them about you too, and they said: ‘Come off it! We’ve heard that one before a hundred times.’”

He paused at that point to take his breath and I knew what was coming next. He said: “Anyway I reckon you owe me two hundred grand for all the trouble you’ve caused me.”

I said: “Look, it’s just a story. You didn’t have to believe me.”

He said: “I’ve just done two years in the pen, and I’m ready to do a few more years if you don’t give me two hundred grand by this time next month!”

By then I had very little left of the two hundred grand. So I said: “How do you expect me to find two hundred grand by next month? (I was trying to gain some time, you see.) He said: “Work, beg, borrow or steal, there are just four ways. You can pay me by installments if you like.”

Now working and borrowing are against my principles, for moral reasons. That left begging or stealing. Then I remembered the story I had just written. I thought, maybe I can sell this story I have just written about the treasure buried on Great Keppel. So I sent it off to the Bulletin by e-mail and they offered me fifty bucks for it. (I called into their offices a few weeks later in Brisbane, to collect it.) That was a start, but I still had a long way to go. So within two weeks I was off on the McCafferty-Greyhound bus for Dubbo. I thought, ‘The trouble with this Joe Blight character is that you never know where he is going to come from next.’ It seemed to me that there really was a curse of Joe Blight.


At that point I had a stroke of luck. A distant relative died and left me three hundred grand. So I went on down to Sydney and I found your name in the phone book. I thought, ‘I’ll just ask this detective bloke to put the two hundred grand back on the island. And that way Joe Blight can rest in peace, wherever he is.’ And that’s it! Now I’ll go back to England.


And with that he turned on his heel and walked out of the office. Well, finally I did as he had directed. He said his name was Clancy, but most people just called him ‘The Kookaburra’. I went over to Great Keppel Island and I put the tin box in the place as described on the map. (He had given me a map with a cross marked on it.) But I kept the manuscript he had written, with the story about the treasure. He had asked me to put it back in the tin, along with the two hundred grand, but I thought to myself, ‘This is a pretty good story, I’ll use it myself. I’ll polish it up a bit and try to flog it to some publisher in Sydney, under my own name. It’s not exactly what you would call a detective story, but so what; I’ll just polish it up a bit, take out some of the swear words, add a bit of fancy vocabulary from the dictionary just for good measure, and say that I wrote it all myself.’

Clancy the Kookaburra, had gone back to England by now. I had gone off to Keppel and done as he requested, without any hassle. He had called his book ‘Treasure Island or the curse of Joe Blight.” But I would call mine ‘Chauncy’s last case’.

And that was when I sat down to write this story. I had recently bought a weatherboard house in Rockhampton. It was a Queenslander, with shrouded verandahs on all four sides, perched on stilts, about seven feet off the ground. It had a corrugated-iron roof painted a dull browny-red colour. I had bought it from a guy who was going back to England, he said, for fifty grand, the price that he had paid for it. How did I get hold of that fifty grand? Well that’s a long story, and in any case you wouldn’t believe me, anyway. (It was part of the deal.)

But if you were to really insist, then I would say that I found it in a tin can, buried among the sea shells in a sand pit on the very tip of the island, right next to the spot where Clancy had asked me to stow his tin can with the two hundred grand stashed away in it. The only problem was that there was also a piece of paper in this tin can with an inscription which read: ‘This is the curse of Bill Bliggs.’ (That’s my name!) But I thought, ‘So what, this is only fifty grand anyway. Clancy the Kookaburra got away with it, why not me, too?’

So I moved up to Rockhampton, stopped paying the rent on the office in Harris street, and I started writing this story!


When I had finished writing the book (‘The curse of Joe Blight’) I sent it to a publisher. Not interested. I tried another. Same thing. Still another. Same result. I tried a few literary agents. Not interested. So I ended up by publishing it at my own expense. The book was quite a success, surprisingly enough. It had good reviews and it sold a few thousand copies.

Then one day, out of the blue… A young woman came to the front door of my house in Rocky. She was a real stunner. (Further description would be unnecessary.) She said her name was Heidi, the daughter of Clancy. She wanted a share of the copyright on the book.

“My father wrote that story,” she said outright “and you stole his manuscript.”

“I simply borrowed the manuscript,” I said, with all due humility, “and used it to write the book. The final text is a long way from the manuscript your father gave me. But if you want it, here it is.” And I gave her the manuscript.

She said: “I’ve got a team of lawyers working on this, and they want sixty percent of the copyright on the story.”

I said, “I’ll settle for twenty percent, otherwise you can go to court with your team of lawyers! It will cost you more than you’ll ever get from the royalties on this book. By the time this goes through the courts, the book will be worth the price of the paper it is written on.”

So we settled for thirty percent.

“And what about the film rights?” she asked.

I said: “I’ll settle for a lump sum of 200 grand, if you can find a producer. The rest is for you to work out yourself, the screenplay and all the other bits: the cast, the set, the promotion, the whole bally lot. You can even play your own role if you like, like they do in these new docu-fiction films on TV.”


So there it was; within six months we had half of Hollywood settled for almost a year on Great Keppel Island. The price of real estate in Rockhampton went through the roof. The film ‘Kookaburra One’ was a raging success. Tom Cruise played the leading role. They dressed him up to look like Clancy of the Overflow. He tried to speak English with an Aussie accent. (Without having much success at it, really.)

I began to wonder if Robert Louis Stevenson would not come back to life and front up one day asking for a piece of the royalties. Why not? Clancy had pinched his story, in a way. Except there were no pirates in this one. But Hollywood had changed the story around at the last minute and turned some of the drug dealers into pirates.

And that was not the end of it. After ‘Kookaburra One’ came ‘Kookaburra Two’ and then ‘Kookaburra Three’. Mel Gibson took over from Tom Cruise in the leading role. Clancy came back from England and bought a ranch in Western Queensland. He was interviewed by the ABC. Began to write his memoirs. Became a celebrity, of sorts. Same thing for Heidi. Within a short while she was rivalling Paris Hilton on the front page of the Internet news. She was a star now. George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Angelina Joly wanted her to join in their next movie, called ‘Ocean’s Seventeen’.

Meanwhile I was still living in my house in Rocky, the square Queenslander I had bought for 50 grand. I had also bought an old motorbike with a sidecar, an Indian 900 cc twin, 1936 model. I toured around Queensland on it for a while.


And then one day, out of the blue… An old Aborigine came up to my front door and said his family came from the island, his great grandfather was buried there, he said. They had been chased off the island somewhere in the middle of the nineteenth century. James Cook had landed there on his way up the coast in 1770 towards the place that became known as Cooktown. One of the sailors had died there, the second mate, and his name was Joe Blight. They had buried him along with his meagre belongings: an old belt, a gold chain, a silver watch. And left a note in a tin box alongside. He had died of scurvy, but also he had eaten some kind of fruit from a tree, and it must have poisoned him as well. This old guy knew all this from his ancestors, who had passed the story down the line from one generation to the next. The white men had come with a boat long ago and one of the sailors had eaten a poisonous fruit, and the others had buried him along with his “treasures” at a certain spot on the southern tip of the island. They had planted a cross but it blew away. So the others went around collecting sea shells and left them at this spot.

“And what about the curse?” I asked him.

He said he knew nothing at all about a curse. When his family was expelled from the island along with the rest of their tribe, they spoke about this man (Joe Blight) and his tin box with a treasure in it, and the story got around Queensland. And someone must have had the idea to go over there and plant a treasure. To the memory of Joe Blight. And someone else must have added the bit about the curse. And then everyone forgot about the whole thing during the First World War. But a digger on the front line mentioned the story just before he died to the father of this old guy who ran the café. By now the gold chain was worth a fortune.

Well I told the local historical society about what I had learnt. And that was just the beginning of it. Now that they knew who Joe Blight really was, the second mate on ‘The Endeavour’, the historians all came along. While the archeologists were digging looking for his bones, they came across a uranium deposit. Or should I say that someone with a metal detector and a geiger counter saw that it had gone way out of range. So you can just imagine the hullaballoo, between the Uranium miners and the local ecologists!

Meanwhile the local Aborigines said that James Cook had made some special agreement whereby the Crown would make no claims to Great Keppel Island. Everybody joined in the party. The local historical society wanted to build a monument with a statue and a giant tin box nearby. Someone even claimed the CIA had planted the treasure as a foil so that no-one would be watching while they extended their new base in Geraldton, WA, on the opposite side of the continent.

The whole thing became an incredible fiasco like that story about the workers digging a hole in the road in front of Melbourne University in 1959. So much so that Clancy was carried away by the flood, a bit like the little boy who held the bowl in that song ‘The Derby Ram’.

So I settled down in my Queenslander, in Rockhampton, and I finished writing this story.


But one day when it was finished, I had this funny dream… I was standing on the beach (Shelving beach) and all these people were lined up in front of me, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, etc., all the writers I’ve been quoting here, and they all had their hands out and I was trying to find shells to give them. I was running back and forth along the beach, looking for sea shells to give them. This upset me so much that I sold the house in Rocky (for 250 grand) and I put 50 grand in a tin and I went over to the other island, Little Keppel, the one where no-one ever goes, and I buried the tin can with an inscription inside it, which read: “This island is called XXX. It belongs to no-one. If you can find it, it’s yours!”

Then I went back to England and I stood in front of Buckingham Palace, until I got arrested. I said (to the police): “I’ve got a message for the King (King William the second). I’ve just found a place called XXX and I’ve claimed it for the Crown.”

And what do you think they did to me? They deported me to the Faulkland Islands! But after a while I escaped and went south to the ‘Land of Fire’, and then I caught a boat down to Antarctica. Then I hitchhiked across to the other side.

You are now all saying to yourselves: “This guy is really crazy. There are no roads in Antarctica, just ice!” But by now there were roads! The ice caps had melted and the real estate people had already moved in. They were selling off building blocks for 150 grand. Someone had started it all by saying: “There’s a treasure buried somewhere under the magnetic South Pole.” They had even built a great big motorway right down the middle.

So I hitchhiked across to the other side of Antarctica and then I caught a ship to Hobart. From there I went slowly up to Sydney. Most of the people I had known long before were gone by now. Normally I should have joined them of course, but I was already about 140 years old. I had found this potion, an elixir in a bottle, in a tin can on a deserted island in the Pacific.

But that’s another story.


jeudi 25 août 2011

Antoni Jach at Melbourne Writers Festival

Credit: Portrait of Antoni Jach by Tom Alberts.

Antoni Jach is a novelist, painter and playwright. His most recent novel is Napoleon's Double, a narrative enlisting history and philosophy for its own neo-baroque ends. His previous novels are The Weekly Card Game, a tragicomic study of quotidian repetition and The Layers of the City, a meditation on contemporary Paris, civilisation and barbarism (which was shortlisted for The Age Book of the Year Fiction Award and was translated into Turkish under the title Sehrin Katmanlari).

Antoni is also the author of a book of poetry, An Erratic History, an idiosyncratic history of Australia and two plays, Miss Furr and Miss Skeene and Waiting for Isabella. He is the creator of a series of artist videos and his paintings have been on display in an exhibition at Le Globo in Paris. He is the publisher at Modern Writing Press, holds a PhD from the University of Melbourne and has taught creative writing at RMIT.

More here:


JF Vernay. “Lost in Distraction: Repetition and Ennui in Antoni Jach’s The Weekly Card Game”. Southerly 69:2, Long Paddock 5, Sydney, December 2009. E-print:

JF Vernay. “‘An intelligent conversation of a structured kind’ with Antoni Jach”, Antipodes: A North American Journal of Australian Literature 22: 1, June 2008, 56-62. Republished and abridged in Etchings 5, Melbourne, August 2008, 30-46.


27 Aug A Book's Journey - Part 1

Arnold Zable, Inez Baranay, Antoni Jach, Jacinta Halloran, Erica Wagner, Leigh Hobbs

27 Aug Why I Read

Kate Grenville, Antoni Jach, Chris Womersley, Tess Gerritsen