Sunday, 9 September 2012
Brisbane Writers Festival
Met Jon Doust at the Brisbane Writers Festival today. What a character. He effectively sold Albany as the centre of the writing world of the planet. He was on a panel talking about the place of "old cultures" in new writing. Sue Woolfe and Brett Caldwell made up the panel. They were a great mix - about as different a three as you could find. At one end Jon's dysfunctional youth and off beat sense of humour at the other the 15 year military background of the surprisingly insightful and sensitive Brett Caldwell and Sue Woolfe in the middle - the white girl living in a remote aboriginal community in NT for a year with her daughter and all her assumptions being smashed. That plus Drusella Majeska in conversation with Robert Dessai (wonderful) and then lots of writers from Oceania speaking French.
My theme for the three days was the Pacific and writing about cultures other than your own. Drusella Majeska talked about her novel 'The Mountain' set in Papua Nui Guinea where she lived for many years. PNG is the closest country to Australia but we fly over it, sail by it and largely ignore it. She spoke about how challenging it is to enter cultures so different from our own. She described her writng as getting behind the eyes of her PNG characters but always aware that they were still her eyes.
I also attended three sessions featuring Tahiitian and New Caledonian writers writing in French. The most interesting question posed was "Did they see themselves as French writers or writers writing in French?" They were all adamant that they were Pacific Islanders (both white and indigenous writers) and French just happened to be the lingua franca of their region. "Do people who write in English see themselves as English writiers?" was the question they posed in return. The question of writers writing in the language of the colonisers was one that was approached but one which continues to be unresolved in terms of influence and the irony or contradiction of that situation. There are some very good writers from that vast region.
A good couple of days.