Politics, clichés and the "lurky country": Murray Bail's critique of national mythologies in Holden's Performance

Ackland, Michael (2011) Politics, clichés and the "lurky country": Murray Bail's critique of national mythologies in Holden's Performance. Zeitschrift für Australienstudien, 25. pp. 27-41.

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[Excerpt] From the outset of his career as a novelist, Murray Bail has been concerned with the perennial issues of Australian identity and the country's putative destiny. As the progeny of a predominantly white, Victorian settlement on the far rim of the Asia-Pacific region, Australians have been acutely conscious of their belatedness, isolation and reliance on a transplanted culture. These factors, together with continued dependence on powerful allies, have produced Australians' notorious "cultural cringe". Australia, too, throughout its relatively brief history of Caucasian settlement, has usually been acted upon, rather than taken decisive steps to shape its own destiny. Like Holden Shadbolt, the main protagonist of Bail's second novel, Holden's Performance, who is at times "unable to talk", the country "appeared to need a shove in the right direction. This was always his trouble, the problem" (159). For the first hundred and twenty years it meekly followed the dictates of Whitehall, until granted independent status at Federation in 1901. Thereafter it prided itself on loyalty to the British flag, and remained dependent on London for investment capital, as well as markets for its primary produce. Only the "shove" provided by Japan's attempt to extend its empire during the Pacific War moved the loyal Commonwealth member-state from the side of an isolated and encircled Britain to embrace the burgeoning superpower on the other side of the Pacific, the United States. Bail, in his early novels, is concerned with the antipodean nation that emerged victorious after the Second World War, and with national traits and blindness that threatened to rob the Great South Land of the glittering destiny that might have awaited it as a developed Western nation positioned near the rising economic epicentres of the Asia-Pacific region.

Item ID: 19360
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1617-9900
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Date Deposited: 20 Mar 2012 02:47
FoR Codes: 20 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 2005 Literary Studies > 200502 Australian Literature (excl Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Literature) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9505 Understanding Past Societies > 950503 Understanding Australias Past @ 100%
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