David Malouf Watch #2

Reviews of Ransom

Elizabeth Speller in "The Independent": "David Malouf's book is born of war. He was first gripped by the stories of the eighth-century BC Iliad as a Brisbane schoolboy in 1943, living among sandbagged buildings and watching constant American troop movements north to the battles of the Pacific. He began this novel 60 years later, drawing on that ancient tale of war just a year or so after the destruction of the World Trade Centre...It is not surprising that his take on extreme and seemingly inexorable violence should be told from the sidelines and should speculate on the back-story of the Trojan war: on bruised humanity, of small glances and fancies, hopes and fortunes dashed, rather than the clash of weapons and heroic egos. But the themes of this apparently simple, yet immensely moving, modern novel are still vast: loss, forgiveness, love and redemption."

David Hebblethwaite on his "Follow the Thread" weblog: "What I take away the most from Ransom is the portrait of a world which is not my own. I haven't the knowledge to judge how authentic is Malouf's depiction of ancient times (and it's a legendary version, anyway), but it's convincing enough for me. This is a society to which the idea of things happening by chance is an alien concept, where everyone is bound to the stations given them by the gods, even a king: he must be seen to be a king, becoming more 'object' than individual - which is why Priam's plan to disguise himself causes such controversy. It takes some effort to connect with this world that thinks so differently, and so it should - but the reward is a fully immersive tale."

Tom Holland in "The Guardian": "If Classic FM published fiction, then Ransom is the kind of novel that would surely result. David Malouf's reworking of the climactic episode of the Iliad demonstrates that epics are no less susceptible than symphonies to being chopped up and repackaged in accessible, bite-size chunks...No one, and certainly not a writer as talented as Malouf, can go far wrong with material like this. As in the Iliad, so in Ransom, the moment when Priam finally meets Achilles and states his mission brings a lump to the throat. Both the lyricism of his prose and the delicacy of his characterisation enable Malouf to avoid the risk of bathos that so often stalks novelists when they try to update epic. He also manages to avoid another tripwire with his treatment of the gods: the immortals, though they manifest themselves throughout the novel, tend to do so elliptically, appearing on the margins of Priam's vision, or else by revealing personal knowledge of a character that no mere mortal could be expected to know."

Darryl Accone mentions Malouf's novel in an essay entitled "Of Walls, Wars, Food and Games" in the "Mail and Guardian": "Malouf moves imaginatively and thoughtfully beyond Homer, the precursor he always respects. There is no expedience to his embellished and enlarged tale, which concentrates on Priam's attempts to recover Hector's body from Achilles. Ransom has been 66 years in the making, from a rainy afternoon in 1943 when Malouf first encountered the story of Troy. For him, and for us, it has been worth the wait."

Edmund White in "The New York Times": "Mr. Malouf is an Australian writer and perhaps his fascination with the wisdom of "barbarians" comes out of his interest in the Aborigines of his country; Mr. Malouf's masterpiece, "Remembering Babylon," is about a 19th-century white adolescent sailor who falls overboard and spends years living among the Aborigines. He nearly forgets English and adopts the culture of the tribe he lives with..."Ransom" is a similarly serious, often beautiful examination of the contrast between the simple sincerity of the carter and the strangely abstract existence of the king. It is dignified and thought-provoking -- but it doesn't seem to me to be exactly a work of art, to be fully realized and embodied in the lives of its characters. It is more a metaphysical inquest than episodes from messy, contingent experience."

Articles by Malouf

In December, Malouf wrote a piece for The Australian newspaper calling for the preservation of Yungaba, an historic building in Brisbane that was threatened with demolition.

"The Sydney Morning Herald" published an extract from Malouf's essay On Experience, which was to be published by Melbourne University Press.


Anna Metcalfe in "The Financial Times".


The Red Room Company has video-taped a talk by David Malouf titled "The Wordshed, David Malouf in the House of Writing."
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

Each part runs about four minutes.

The author paid a visit to homeless Clemente students  at Mission Australia, who are studying Remembering Babylon.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on March 16, 2010 4:05 PM.

Wet Ink Short Story Prize was the previous entry in this blog.

Reprint: Widow Sums Up by A. H. C. (Alec H. Chisholm) is the next entry in this blog.

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