Development of Australian Aboriginal Fiction. From an invisible to a postcolonial yarn

Iva Polak. Razvoj književne proze australskih Aboridžina: od nevidljive do postkolonijalne priče (Development of Australian Aboriginal Fiction. From an indivisible to a postcolonial yarn). Biblioteka književna smotra, ed. Irena Lukšić, Zagreb: Hrvatsko filološko društvo, 2011. pp. 396.

The study discusses the corpus of Australian Aboriginal fiction in English and is meant to familiarize the Croatian reader with a series of Aboriginal novels and short stories which have not been discussed in the Croatian context. The discussion opens up with the problem of approaching a culture-specific text by an outsider and the traps of an easy-going application of the Eurocentric theoretical apparatus. Introductory chapters also offer an insight into the socio-historical context in which Aboriginal writing appears as well as an intricate discussion on the ontological concept of The Dreaming, necessary for understanding Aboriginal writing in general. The main part of the book focuses on the appearance and development of the novel and short story. The chapter on Aboriginal short story attempts to locate the “moment” in which traditional oral narrative transforms into a short story, i.e. when the guardian of oral tradition shifts into the author of a literary text. The most extensive chapter of the study, that on the Aboriginal novel, sheds a light on the circumstances and problems of the appearance of Aboriginal novel and discusses its thematic and structural distinctiveness. The author then divides the novelistic corpus into “modern” novel, detective fiction and adventure novel, historical novel (historiographic metafiction), fantastic novel, Stolen Generations novel, urban novel and queer novel, albeit signalling that every taxonomy is limiting to a certain degree. Each genre is exemplified with a series of novels by famous Aboriginal authors in the  1964-2010 period. Some of the authors include Mudrooroo, Sam Watson, Bruce Pascoe, Eric Willmot, Richard Wilkes, Sally Morgan, Doris Pilkington, John Muk Muk Burke, Tara June Winch, Melissa Lucashenko, Vivienne Cleven, Alexis Wright, Larissa Behrendt, etc. The book finishes with a chapter on the literary frauds in Australia caused by conscious appropriation of Aboriginal identity. Labelling this phenomenon “pseudonymic plagiarising” triggered mostly by profit, the author discusses the notion of the allegedly clear demarcation line between different cultural codes, as well as between literary ethics and aesthetics.
Through its explicit ethical approach and scepticism towards a casual application of Eurocentric critical machinery, the author opens up a totally new cultural space to the Croatian readership.