Christopher J Koch
"In the sleazy coffee bars of bohemian Sydney the Rymers were born.
"For a generation they offered access to a world of illusion and enthralment.
"Marrying the ancestral energies of immigrant ballads to the faeryworld of the European occult, this electric folk group seemed to embody the questing religious spirit of a decade.
"They had the enigmatic voice of an East European refugee, the instrumental skills of a vagrant country singer, the inspired arrangements of a self-educated Tasmanian mystic.
"The universe was double. They couldn't fail.
"But as the group stood on the threshold of international stardom, the darker side of enchantment started to assert its presence.
"In a miasma of sexual jealousy, magic mushrooms and apocalyptic mysticism, the fragile collaboration that had shaped their music began to fall apart."
"Koch has an extraordinary power of evoking place, and I feel now that Tasmania is part of my memory" - Graham Greene
"A great gift for sheer narrative...His prose is subtly analytical as well as bouyantly energetic" - London Magazine
"The novel is a major one...a speedy, compact work of very mature art for a master novelist" - Sydney Morning Herald
"A classy writer, deploying a kind of dangerous power" - The Guardian
The bruise-coloured steeple of St Augustine's was visible for miles around on the hill of South Hobart: a watch-tower over a camp of fear. When I go back to my native town and look up Harrigan Street to that tower, I still feel the old nausea, the old dread. My case is scarcely unique; as all too many others have testified, a Christian Brothers' education in the 1950s had a fine pitch of dread, unlikely to be matched again.
Fear's height was in the early mornings, when I climbed towards the steeple and its cross up the asphalt hill of Harrigan Street, the steepest in hilly Hobart. The cars of those days would stall on Harrigan Street and then turn back; but I heaved myself upwards with rhythmic jerks, helped by my single crutch, my thin left leg aching and trembling. My thoughts were small and beast-like with effort, and I was glad of this; it kept my mind from Brother Kinsella. Today was bright and frosty, and I was twelve years old.
Upwards: jerk and heave. I counted the landmarks that brought me nearer to the end of my small ordeal, and so to the beginning of the day's larger one. I knew by heart every mean colonial cottage of ochre brick; every ribbon of weedy garden; every holystoned front step; every picket on every fence. Left below as I climbed was one of the town's few small slums; a place of mean, two-storey tenements, shabby shops and small factories: Hobart's miniature Gorbals. A tall factory chimney there was lettered with a vertical message, repeating itself to my misery as I climbed, winter and summer: UP TO DATE.
From the Triad Grafton paperback edition, 1986.
This novel won the Miles Franklin Award in 1985.
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Last modified: April 2, 2002.