lundi 30 avril 2012

The Mystery and Mastery of Motherhood – Sallie Muirden’s Fiction

Team Trouble is into keeping things sane and simple this month. In May issue we have one of our most beautiful covers ever, with Brian Duffy's winning work from the David Bowie album Aladdin Sane (1973) coming out of the Monash Gallery of Art, Notorious: Duffy’s celebrity portraits. That show closes on 13 May, so be quick to see it.
Inside the covers it's warm, and there's a cozy interview by Courtney Symes with artist Danie Mellor to get us settled in. Neil Boyack follows with a call to cultural revolution inspired by Persecution Blues: The Battle for The Tote, which is released on DVD this month. Later on Shane Jones discusses the illusions of life and trompe l'eoil with Inga Walton, while Jean-François Vernay chats about author Sallie Muirden to celebrate Mother's Day. Plus there's some fantastic new comics by Mandy Ord, Ive Sorocuk and Darby Hudson, our magnifico May Salon, and lovely listings as always.
As usual you can click on the cover image above to go to our pageflip version, or on the link below to go to ISSUU and our fine selection of BACK ISSUES. Of course you can always tell us how you feel on our Facebook page, and don't forget to share us with your friends too: Facebook Like Button
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The Mystery and Mastery of Motherhood – Sallie Muirden’s Fiction 

Any novel by Melbourne-based author Sallie Muirden is the perfect pick for a Mother’s Day gift. She certainly shares with Beverley Farmer a marked feminine writing packed with emotions and a taste for womanly concerns. In her debut novel Revelations of a Spanish Infanta (1996), Diego Velázquez is probing the Dark Continent: “What is to become a woman? Is is to begin the menstrual flow, the monthly plea of the womb to be filled with life? Is it to view a birth, to witness first-hand the cross and fulfilment of womanhood?”
Like Shirley Hazzard, Muirden thematically indulges in heart matters with their vicissitudes and complexities experienced in international contexts. Her novels are all first-person narrations based in Europe (Spain and France) and informed with historical knowledge, novels that mostly involve beguiling female protagonists as central characters (a twelve-year old Spanish infanta, a Carmelite sister named Marie-France and Paula – a Sevillian courtesan).
Starting with Muirden’s second novel, We Too Shall be Mothers (2001), would be a wise choice because her first and latest novel are companion historical plots that demonstrate a heartrending passion for Velázquez and 17th-century European lifestyle told on similar narrative modes, i.e. a double vision through a male and female lens – Velázquez’s perspective alternating with the infanta’s/ Paula’s.
We Too Shall be Mothers is the intriguing story of Marie-France, a young Carmelite, who abandons the essentially mundus muliebris of convent life in 1793 to make the switch from sister to mother and experience the joys of womanhood. The early chapters set the tone for this rebellious act: “Good little girls. You will be sisters one day?” […]  “No, Father, we want to be mothers.” Muirden’s prose focuses on motherhood issues (matrix, barrenness, fertility, pregnancy, child delivery, motherly love, etc.) that recur in her Spanish novels. 
Judging from the blurring of boundaries between feminine and masculine in certain parts of this novel, Revelations of a Spanish Infanta seems to delve into Jungian psychology by depicting the early days and dual nature of a now internationally famous painter who falls madly in love with his sitter, an infanta on the verge of womanhood. But in order to surrender to such feelings, Velázquez must let go and give way to his maternal instincts. By and large, Revelations of a Spanish Infanta is chiefly about giving birth both creatively and biologically, about the pitfalls of symbiotic union and of the vulnerability of intimacy.
A Woman of Seville: A Novel of Love, Ladders and the Unexpected (2009) is another realistic romance which ingeniously blends history and fantasy. A mysterious and mute ladder-man, seduces Paula who, among other things, is a sitter for a fictitious Flemish painter reminiscent of Rembrandt. The enigmatic character, which doesn’t have a name until the last chapters of the book, fuels Paula’s romantic imagination:  “That’s the nicest thing about romance, at least at the start when there are whole territories still to be discovered in each other, the mapping just beginning, just like Christopher Columbus setting out from Spain – the bright steel of childhood intensity returns.” But the grim reality behind the poetic figure of the ladder-man eventually sets in and reveals the saddening cruelty of human nature.

More on Australian fiction in The Great Australian Novel – A Panorama (Melbourne: Brolga, 2010)

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