Literature in the Australian Commonwealth characteristically expresses collective values, perhaps more so than in other parts of the world. Even the experiences of the individual are viewed through a representative lens, with the aim of integrating them into the larger, collective consciousness of the Australian people. In this blog we have highlighted some of the greatest works to come out of Australia.
Women in Literature
When compared to its western counterparts, throughout the last century or so, the Australian Commonwealth appears to have stronger presence of female authors. Though still skewed in favour of male writers, the Australian Commonwealth has enjoyed the writings of Germaine Greer, Miles Franklin, Ruth Park, Colleen McCullough, and Ethel Turner, to name a few.
Nobel Prize winner, Patrick White
The first Australian to win a Nobel Prize in Literature, Patrick White is often considered the most famous writer the country has ever seen. Publishing twelve novels, eight plays, and three collections of short stories, “Voss” is one of his most well-known. The book includes all the key ingredients of a good piece of literature: loss, loss and exploration of self and land.
Aboriginal literature has two meanings: literature by Indigenous Australians or literary works with aboriginal themes by non-Indigenous Australians. While the latter is important, the former—Aboriginal writers—are an integral part of aboriginal activism as they give wider voice and representation to the community. Aboriginal writers have impacted Australian society as they change perceptions and even have a positive effect on the relationship between indigenous and non-indigenous communities.
Famous Indigenous Writers & Books
Writer-inventor, David Unaipon is said to be the first aboriginal to record aboriginal mythology, in his book, “Legendary Tales of the Aborigines”. Held in high regard for his contributions to society, Unaipon is on the Australian $50 bill.
Jack Davis has written eight plays including “Kullark”, “The Dreamers” and “Burungin”. Also a poet, his works are a part of assigned school reading lists throughout Australia.
Two-time Miles Franklin Literary Award recipient, Kim Scott, has published four novels and has written more than half a dozen short stories. His book, “The Deadman Dance” explores the first encounters between indigenous Noongar people and the British colonialists.
Alexis Wright’s “The Swan Book” is set in near-future Australia, but is still birthed out of an experience of exile known indigenous Australians. Heart-breaking while at times funny, many critics agree “The Swan Book” is one of the most important pieces of modern Australian literature.
Other Famous Literary Works
Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay- This Australian classic is the chilling tale of a girls school outing to Hanging Rock that takes a mysterious turn.
The Harp in the South by Ruth Park- Park was born in New Zealand but moved to Australia in the 1940s to further her career. Her book is still considered to be one of the greatest Australian novels of all time.
The Man who Loved Children by Christina Stead- Stead’s novel first released in 1940, tells the tale of a dysfunctional couple with a truckload of children in tow. The way politics and family life not only interact, but form one another is what makes the novel exceptionally interesting. The book did not find critical acclaim until it was reissued in 1965, with the setting changed from Sydney to Washington D.C.
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts- Though only a one-time author, Gregory David Roberts is one author that is close to almost every Mumbaikaar’s heart. Love it or hate it, this Australian authored one of the world’s most-read books set in Mumbai, “Shantaram”.
Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre- This year’s TataLit Live participant, DBC Pierre, won the 2003 Booker Prize for fiction for his novel, Vernon God Little. Having lived in Australia, Mexico, and Ireland, Pierre’s novel takes in a small town in Texas and beachfront Mexico. The BBC quoted the head of judges for the Booker Prize as saying the book is a “coruscating black comedy reflecting our alarm but also our fascination with America.” DBC Pierre is one of the most important Australian voices of our time.