Am I the only one who was angered by the edition of Australian Story devoted to Richard Flanagan?
Before Richard began winning awards, people who spoke on behalf of Australian culture and values dismissed him as “unAustralian” in his writing style and “leftist” in his politics.
He was, to use a phrase which means the same to such people with or without the adjective, “a mad Tasmanian”.
But since Richard became well known overseas, the Sydney elites have changed their tune.
Now they want to own him as “a brave Australian intellectual”, as “an Australian Hemingway”.
The island which shaped him, meanwhile, is dismissed as ignorant of his talents, and too flawed and conflicted to meet his high hopes for it.
By its ingratitude - by casting him out for his “treasonous” truthfulness - Tasmania has forsaken its claim on Richard Flanagan and Sydney has assumed the lease.
Sure Tasmania is beautiful, the Continentals claim. And they can see how this might inspire Richard’s greatness. But in their sight the people of Tasmania are as ugly as the island is pretty. It is impossible for the Continentals to admit that it is the Tasmanians and their astounding story-soaked culture which has given the world Richard Flanagan. Who will be left to laugh at if the Tasmanians are finally valued as the exceptional people we are? So, Richard is shown as the Romantic hero, wandering alone through a lonely wilderness in search of himself and the truth, in direct contradiction to everything he has ever written about and stood for.
Yahoo Serious parodied all this hypocrisy exceptionally well in “Young Einstein”.
A Tasmanian genius is sneered at in Sydney until he is feted in Paris, whereupon the Sydney-siders grovel at his feet.
Serious’s point was that arbiters of taste and value in places like Sydney are too foolish or superficial to ever really hear what people from places like Tasmania say.
The point of Australian Story, and what made me so angry, is that this is still as true today as it ever was.
The island which shaped him, meanwhile, is dismissed as ignorant of his talents, and too flawed and conflicted to meet his high hopes for it. By its ingratitude - by casting him out for his “treasonous” truthfulness - Tasmania has forsaken its claim on Richard Flanagan and Sydney has assumed the lease.