|Born in 1932, Christopher Koch has won the Miles Franklin Award twice, for The Doubleman in 1985, and for Highways to a War in 1996. He is now back with a new novel, Lost Voices, and he recently spoke to Susan Wyndham for The Age.|
The book a man produces at 80 might be seen as a map of his life's deepest concerns, and so it is with Christopher Koch's Lost Voices. The novel, like the man, has returned to his native Tasmania and it began, he says, with his ''interest in the idea that the past resonates off the future. I've done it before in Out of Ireland and Highways to a War, but this time I wanted it to be within a family.
''I wanted to look back from a distance at my childhood. This is probably the least autobiographical book I've written in terms of the characters, but I've tried to create a sense of what it was like here in the 1940s. At my age you realise you are living in a different world from the one you grew up in.''
In Lost Voices, ''every character in the 19th century has a counterpart in the 20th century''. In life, Koch says, ''things that happen in the past have counterparts in the present. We have ancestral memories - it sounds a bit far out but so many Australians go to Europe to the places of their ancestors and recognise those places.'' Koch himself remembers travelling through Switzerland and feeling that he'd been in a particular valley before.
He also cites scientific research into animal memory. ''Chickens run from the shadow of the hawk and they have never seen a hawk; certain memory circuits are inherited from the mother. If animals have this, why should it not be stronger in humans?''