Across the Sea Wall
Christopher J Koch
"During the early 1950s, many young Australians made the traditional pilgrimage to Europe by ship. Meanwhile, a wave og post-war European migrants was coming the other way: 'Displaced Persons'; refugees from the havoc of the Second World War.
"Ilsa Kalnins, the Latvian showgirl, is one such refugee. Robert O'Brien is a sheltered young Australian, running away from the tedium and security of a country that is still almost wholly insular and Anglo-Saxon. Ilsa, disturbed and disturbing, exerts a fascination over Robert that changes the voyage and his life. He is never to reach Europe: instead they travel through India together. Ahead is catastrophe, as each seeks in the other answers that cannot be found."
"Unquestionably one of the most powerful, most moving and most beautifully written novels produced in Australia...The Indian scenes are painted as vividly and piercingly as illuminations." - Kenneth Slessor, Daily Telegraph
He stood on Marine Parade.
A two-day assignment for his paper had brought O'Brien from Sydney down to Melbourne. It was his first visit to the southern city in seven years; and in the late afternoon of the second day, he had driven his hired car out to Port Melbourne. It was an expedition entirely without reason. He seldom did things without reason these days, but he had been drawn here as though to the scene of an old crime: a crime no one remembered but himself.
He parked his car on the highway by the piers, in the dying afternoon, in the presence of the ships. Then he began to walk. The sky arched huge as ever over the limitless flats of the Bay and the silent swarm of Melbourne at its edges; and O'Brien walked into Beaconsfield Parade and finally into Marine Parade at St Kilda: the long, linked, esplanade-highway where everything had begun and died. And he made a list.
Thirty years old next month; married to a woman he would never want to lose; two small sons he doted on; the career job he had wanted. So why had he come out here? Wasn't he cured yet?
From the Angus and Robertson paperback edition, 1990.
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Last modified: March 28, 2002.