The Near and the Far (ed by David Carlin & Francesca Rendle-Short, Scribe)
Born out of WrICE—a program of reciprocal residencies focussed on writing from the Asia-Pacific—The Near and the Far interlaces the work of familiar Australian writers with that of emerging and established writers from the larger region. The meticulously curated mix of fiction, nonfiction, essays and poetry explore place, culture and identity in luminous and inventive ways, with each piece footnoted by the author’s brief exegesis on how the program informed their writing. Melissa Lucashenko’s short story ‘Dreamers’ reels readers in from the outset—situating an ineluctable sense of loss against the harsh natural elements and the complex racial politics of rural 1960s Australia. Other pieces draw directly on the settings in which they were conceived—Cate Kennedy’s ‘Incoming Tides’ describes an outsider’s discombobulating experience of residing in present-day Vietnam, while Bernice Chauly’s ‘Standing in the Eyes of the World’ is an impassioned and frenzied essay charting a watershed moment in Malaysian politics. Maxine Beneba Clarke’s pithy ‘Aviation’ is a standout in the collection, her masterful storytelling building up to a climactic scene that lays bare the flawed perceptions that underpin our very being. The anthology attests to the important work that can result from writers immersing themselves in a place so unlike their home, where fresh collaborations are forged and new ways of thinking divulged.
Sonia Nair is reviews editor at Right Now