Down and Out


Not cricket. Literature and architecture

As I write this, Australia is still drowning in debate over its cricket cheats, which has eclipsed the conversation about minister Peter “the gibbering potato” Dutton’s offer to shelter white South African farmers. Commentator Ross Gittins’s wrap of the debate: “I can’t see why people are so shocked to discover our cricketers have been cheating. Surely that’s only to be expected in a nation that’s drifted so far from our earlier commitment to decency, mateship and the fair go… Lovely people, Australians. (And don’t imagine the rest of the world isn’t realising how unlovely we are.)”

Author Ceridwen Dovey

On a more positive note: two South African-born writers are in the news: Peter Temple, who came here in the seventies and in 2010 won Australia’s most prestigious literary award, the Miles Franklin, with his novel Truth, has died of cancer at 71. Fellow crime writer Shane Maloney said of Temple (who also won the British crime writers’ association major award, the Gold Dagger, in 2007): “He was to terse blokes with hard jobs and wounded souls what Proust was to memory. He made every sentence count and shot the stragglers.’’ His publisher, Michael Heyward, said: “As an expat he heard us in a way we could hardly hear each other.” Temple, who was legendary among journalism students for his teaching earlier in his career, said of his departure from South Africa in 1977, that “you can have no real love of country if you disagree with the decision making of the country”.

Crime was a “wonderful vehicle” for engaging audiences. “What is more at the heart of social life than the crime against the person? I see it as an excuse for beginning the narrative. It has its own logic and relentless drive. It is a reason for things to happen and for the way characters behave.”

A profile in the Sydney Morning Herald of acclaimed on Sydney writer, Ceridwen Dovey, is headlined “The legacy of guilt after growing up in SA.” For 15 years of her literary career and her first two books, Dovey (now in her late thirties and living in Sydney) avoided writing overtly about her

own life. In her new novel, a psychological thriller, In the Garden of the Fugitives, she has attempted “to find the right form to contain some of that experience”.

Although her childhood in South Africa was happy, she knew from a young age that “something was off”. She describes herself as a “beneficiary”, a term she drew from the Ugandan academic and political commentator Mahmood Mamdani, who divides survivors of apartheid into three groups: victims, perpetrators and beneficiaries.

Being a beneficiary is a weird place to write from, says Dovey: “So much of the power of literature comes from witnesses, from the sense of having been wronged. When you can’t speak from that position, how can you speak? Should you even speak at all?”

Her parents, Ken and Teresa Dovey, according to her, found a way to critique their society through work: “Dad was an educator, he was taking on black students when it wasn’t the done thing. He got a death threat, which was why we left for Melbourne in 1982: they had spies everywhere, you didn’t have to do much to get reported.”

Her mother was a theorist on postcolonial literature, one of the first people to write about J M Coetzee. Dovey studied creative writing at the University of Cape Town, and Blood Kin, which she wrote as her MA thesis, was published in 15 countries. For the new novel, she cites 38 sources.

On another creative front, the co-founder of Menulog (an online food and beverage delivery business) Ukrainian Leon Kamenev, is using South African architecture firm Saota to design his AU$10 million house on a AU$79m site (which is the consolidation of four houses in the Sydney suburb, Vaucluse) after scrapping plans for a massive French-inspired chateau. Saota’s website says the firm is “an internationally sought-after brand… with strong roots in South Africa” and with 85% of its clientele now being international, with projects in 86 countries, from Dubai to St Tropez.

In Sydney, where the preoccupation with real estate is such that The Sydney Morning Herald,  has a dedicated “Prestige property editor”, we will no doubt hear more of this very slick outfit.

Signs of the times: at the Black Bar & Grill at the Star Casino, would-be-diners are lining up for a $600 steak. It’s not on the menu but you can join the waitlist for the “1kg, dry-aged Blackmore wagyu ribeye on the bone (marble score 9+)”.

A restaurant in Mosman, Ormeggio at the Spit, is charging AU$20 per head per customer extra for a window table with a guaranteed water view. Its 11-course tasting menu is AU$196 before drinks. “It’s like booking front-row seats at a concert, or an ocean-view hotel room,” says co-owner Anna Pavoni.

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Submitted by : Patrick Dowling of Kommetjie on 2018-04-28 16:02:51
No article about Australia should be without a reminder of their increasingly appalling environment-degrading decisions and climate change denialism. Way worse than SA.
Patrick Dowling

Editor's Note
Our Sydney correspondent does just that.

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