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Remembering Babylon 1st American ed Edition

32 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0679427247
ISBN-10: 0679427244
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The prodigiously talented Australian author of the magnificent and award-winning The Great World (1991) is working on a much smaller scale here, but he writes with such beauty and universal resonance that his story has epic force. In a tiny pioneer corner of Queensland in the mid-19th century lands Gemmy Fairley, a pathetic, stammering wreck of a young man left for drowned as a boy and brought up by Aborigines. He becomes the center of attention among the local farming folk, mostly immigrants from Scotland and the North Country, already overwhelmed by their solitude in this hot, strange land, and convinced that the primitive original inhabitants will slaughter them if they drop their guard for a moment. A naturalist minister sees in Gemmy and his native skills a way for the bone-poor colony to prosper and live in harmony with the land; a decent, struggling Scottish couple take him in and by doing so tear apart their relations with their neighbors, though their children's lives are forever changed by Gemmy's presence; and the governing class, in distant Brisbane, try to do the right thing by him for all the wrong reasons. It seems the slight tale can only have a sad, violent end, but Malouf is after a much less predictable resolution. In his hands, the story acquires overtones of poetry and magic, so that death and time's passage are as palpable as the luminous landscapes he paints. This is a book that actually expands a reader's consciousness.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

A quietly masterful tale from Australia's colonial past, depicting the savage and painful nuances of racism evoked when a white youth raised by aborigines returns to his own people: from award-winning novelist and poet Malouf (The Great World, 1991, etc.). When Gemmy Fairley encounters the children of Jock McIvor as they play on the fringe of their mid-19th-century settlement in the Outback, a chain of events is set in motion that changes all their lives. Gemmy, cast ashore as a child after a brutal life in the streets of London and at sea, joined the natives who found him, spending 16 years with them before seeking out other whites to find answers to questions about his origin still tormenting him. Adopted by McIvor's family, proud Scottish immigrants, he is accepted by them but not by the community, which views him with distrust as his otherness remains intact--and when native visitors are seen with him, fears of an attack turn the whites violently against him. Saved by Jock--who finds his own growing estrangement from his neighbors a disturbing development that he's powerless to change- -Gemmy is removed to more secure lodgings, but he wishes only to escape and vanishes soon after. Meanwhile, his presence among the McIvor children has proved a turning point for them, as they witness both Gemmy's innocence and the barbarity of others, and in the process the whole family becomes increasingly open to the subtle natural wonders of their new homeland. Delicate but relentless in its focus on the manifestations of racial intolerance, this is enhanced by a naturalist's keen eye for detail, bringing landscape and states of mind together in a probing, resonant vision of discovery and despair. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; 1st American ed edition (September 28, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679427244
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679427247
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,638,721 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 9, 1997
Format: Paperback
I found the issues addressed in this novel compelling. Firstly, the title, 'Remembering Babylon' refers to Psalm 137 where Hebrew slaves in Babylon lament the loss of Zion, their homeland. The novel addresses exile in various forms: immagrants in exile, members of a small community in exile. How can these immigrants from Europe belong in a place which is not their own? The answer is provided in Gemmy Fairly. He is ostracised by the European settlers, but at the same time is not an aboriginal - he represents a meeting place between the two cultures as he hovers upon the fence in the opening confrontation with the three McIvor children. The answer he provides, is one of spirituality. Throughout the novel there are certain parallels: White understandings of power (eg authority through guns, and land ownership) versus aboriginal understandings (kinship and oneness with the land), White spirituality in Rev. Frazer versus the tribal land spirituality. This is not merely indigenous stereotyping as Germaine Greer suggests, but a suggestion as to how newcomers can learn to make the new land home. This is done not by 'recreating Zion in Babylon' and trying to recreate a little piece of Europe in this harsh environment, not through topsoil forever ruined by the trampling of hooved beasts, but by connecting spiritually with the land, and becoming one with it. This point is most strongly reinforced by Janet, the McIvor's eldest daughter, in two occasions. Firstly, when the initial connection is made, bees (native - European hybrid bees, through no accident) swarm majestically around her, attracted to her menstrual blood like honey, but leave her unharmed, leading to her involvement with the convent to study bees.Read more ›
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 12, 2000
Format: Paperback
I didn't read this for a class or an essay but I can see how it might have ruined it for me if I had to pick through it trying to find something tangible to say. That said, I found the trading of power (or at least the characters' perception of it) in this book most compelling. From one second to the next, as the characters in a scene come and go, or the shock of first appearances fade or linger, a feeling of control quickly becomes one of fear and distrust. It's a true Malouf masterpiece because he makes us think about the people in our own world today by letting us into a story in an otherwise distant time and place. It's a beautiful book, and reads to me- like most of Malouf's writing- like a pure stream in a dirty world.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Megami on October 29, 2001
Format: Paperback
Remembering Babylon is the story of Gemmy - washed up on the Australian coast as a boy after a life of harshness that is hard to imagine, he is taken in by group of Aborigines. Sixteen years later, he makes himself known to the white community of northern Queensland, where he causes the community to examine not only it's attitude towards what is `civilised', but also causes them to look inwards upon themselves.
This is a story about frontiers - the physical frontier of the small community that Gemmy joins; the frontier of the new state of Queensland; and the frontier between civilised and primitive. There is some beautiful work in this book, especially in its examination of small community dynamics, and coming of age. But I feel that Malouf starts threads that he doesn't bother to finish - the ambiguous characters of Mrs. Hutchence and Leona are introduced with promises of an exotic past, yet we never get to know them. George the school teacher is developed, only to be left out of the second half of the story. While Malouf manages to pack a lot of punch into a short tale, I feel that perhaps just a little be of expansion would have made this an even better book. But I will admit that I got a kick out of reading a story set in my home state of Queensland - it is nice to see that there is some Australian historical fiction set somewhere other than the Southern States!
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful By taking a rest HALL OF FAME on January 26, 2001
Format: Paperback
Mr. David Malouf has the ability to take familiar topics, amend them, and create a new viewpoint, a valid book, and worthwhile reading experience. Fear generated by the unknown as perceived by ignorant or well-educated simpletons is not new. That these feelings are often expressed in terms of racial tension; hatred and violence are routine, not an exception, and anything but a novelty. In, "Remembering Babylon" the Author tells the tale in a manner new for me, and even though the behaviors of many involved were predictable, the new perspective and quality the Author brings to it made for very good reading.
As he has in previous works he sets the tale in Australia, and once again brings settlers from Europe, in this case Scotland. Mr. Malouf then takes a familiar human interaction, which is by definition tragic, and it is here he makes it his own. In terms of Race, Gemmy is as white as any of the settlers. He spent thirteen years in London, and then was washed upon the coast of Australia where he then lives amongst the Native Aborigines for sixteen years. As Gemmy has lived the better part of his life is the harsh sun he is no longer as light in complexion as the self-described white newcomers. Gemmy one day happens across the path of some children, and in fear of his safety announces he "is a British Object". The irony of this statement could be dwelt on for pages by itself.
There are many relationships a reader can explore in this story. I felt a key one was that between Gemmy and the Family headed by Jock that takes him in. Jock does so to please his wife, as Gemmy is not a person he would bring into his home with his Wife and Children.
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