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Remembering Babylon

by David Malouf

Teaching notes prepared for VATE members by Gwen Ford

1. An Introduction to Remembering Babylon 2. A perspective on the text: imagination and language 3. Ways into the text: student activities 4. Characters 5. Themes 6. A guided approach to selected passages 7. Topics for discussion and writing 8. References page 17 page 1 page 2 page 3 page 6 page 9 page 12 page 15

Page numbers in these notes refer to Malouf, D. Remembering Babylon, Vintage Books 1994

Section 1. An introduction to Remembering Babylon

emembering Babylon is, in some ways, a brief introduction to aspects of Australian history. The major part of this densely packed novel deals with life in the settlement. Attitudes towards the land and to the Aboriginal people are established as the newcomers strive to create something a bit like home in the hostile landscape. The novels beginning is shaped around a small world. The tiny community of settlers is comparatively coherent and lacking in complexity. The richly detailed lives of the McIvors and their neighbours and the impact of Gemmy Fairleys arrival are viewed in an enclosed framework. The community of the settlement is isolated from the larger world of colonial politics. Comfort and security come from personal relationships in this place where Even in full sunlight it was impenetrable dark. To overcome the strangeness of the land and its inhabitants the new arrivals surround themselves with the familiar: objects, education systems, laws, religions and mythologies of Europe and Great Britain. In bringing the old world to the new, many also brought prejudices formed by the colonising experience of the Americas. Some even hoped to have Aboriginal slaves and plantations with black figures moving in rows down a field. The boundaries of the novel gradually expand as both the country and the novel develop, becoming more and more complex. Major shifts in growth relate to the development of the capital. The establishments in politics, trade and finance, the growth of technology, science, and the Great War continue the themes of exile and identity, integration of the old with the new and the effects of a European-based past. The world of the capital, where the governor sees himself as an antipodean Pericles dashing about the unpaved streets in a gleaming chariot reflects the European consciousness and its effect on the colony. The archaic and the classical, indeed the prehistoric and the classical, exist side by side here and in the same moment. The distance between those who rule and those who work the land is vast. In Brisbane, the representative of the Crown yearns for the classical peaks of Greece, while Jock McIvor dreams of waking just for a day, under a blanket of snow. The governor recreated a feeling of home by living in his Palladian style mansion tended by Irish servants. The settlers attempted to control the land, to strip every vestige of the native in order to make it just a bit like home. For them, the nature of the land was as terrifying as the fear of natives, tribes of wandering myalls. It is the merging of the native and foreign in the character of Gemmy that is central to the book. Sixty years after Gemmy emerges out of the Absolute Dark, he appears sharply focused in Janets mind as one of the sources of her greatest happiness. She remembers Gemmy as she saw him, once and for all, up there on the stripped and shiny rail, never to fall... In the evocative prose poem of Janets reverie, she returns to the image-filled past of her childhood. Central to this prayer is the spirit of Gemmy. The moment resonates with feeling as Malouf reasserts the importance of memory, the power of language and the value of love.

Section 2. A perspective on Remembering Babylon : imagination and language

n a Weekend Magazine review, David Malouf said It is the writers business and always has been, to write out of imagination. At the moment of Gemmy Fairleys arrival in the settlement, young Lachlan Beattie is himself engaged in an act of the imagination. He is a Russian hunter, tracking down wolves in the snow.

Lachlans make-believe world is interrupted by an apparition that materialises into something ...not even, maybe, human. The game ends abruptly: in the intense heat Lachlan felt the snow melt at his feet. His young head has been filled with stories of possible raids by Aborigines, of nightmare rumours, superstitions and now he is faced with something that was perhaps a human that in the manner of the tales they told one another, all spells and curses... The boy uses his imagination to protect himself by seeing the creature as a scarecrow that had somehow caught the spark of life. From his first words to his youthful captor, Gemmy Fairly objectifies himself with his cry, Do not shoot, ... I am a B-b-british object. This slip of Gemmys mother tongue was a failure of language. Whatever powers and patterns of speech he brought with him to Australia were temporarily lost during his time with the Aboriginal tribe who restored him to life. When he did regain his earlier language, his limitations allowed both his scholarly translator and his scribe to distort meaning and facts for their own purposes. When Gemmy Fairley transforms from a thing into a white man, with the mangy half-starved look of a black ... his unintelligible speech, perhaps, in some whining blackfellers lingo outraged even the youthful Lachlan. Just steik your mooth, he demanded in his own imported language. Desperate to communicate, Gemmy proceeded to words through signs, miming, hooting, yelling and stammering. An omniscient narrator observes that It was as if the language these people spoke was an atmosphere they moved in. Just being in proximity gave him access to it. (p.14) The power of language to shape meaning remains central to David Maloufs imagined worlds. At times language becomes a motif in the novel. For Gemmy, words were dragged up; Mr Frazer would offer syllables, words, anything to relieve the distress.., Gemmy searches for the word that will release him once more into the wilderness - the word - he had found it. Water. Without access to the word there would be nothing left of him. The water-related imagery which brings Gemmy into focus recurs throughout the novel which concludes with a richly poetic celebration of the life force of the natural world, as the light of the moon reaches the edge of the shore. In this novel as in An Imaginary Life, language is power and without it true participation in life is not possible. Ovid also loses his tongue, to become cut off from those who grudgingly accept him into their community. Like the Roman poet who in his final moments turned into the landscape, Gemmy disappears into a known landscape. Thus imagination and language offer the possibility of expression and liberation.

Section 3.

Ways into the text

The activities in this section are addressed to students. Teachers may wish to modify these for their own use.

Before class discussion

EAD the novel at least three times. Multiple readings reveal different angles and ensure worthwhile participation in class discussions. As a reader preparing for an interpretation it is important to make an informed response. It is important to be aware that the process of reading and to understand that making sense of what you read requires work. On a first reading jot down your immediate thoughts about the text as you go along. Your second reading will allow you to engage with the imaginative experience of the novel, elaborate on first impressions, decode symbols and complete character profiles. A third reading will consolidate your knowledge and understanding of the novel and should allow you to write confidently with a supporting argument from the text. A wise student will write notes on bits of paper. (Post-it notes are wonderful!) You might choose to focus on clues to a characters personality in one colour, the shaping of themes in another, unusual events which relate to the central concerns of the novel in yet another, and so on

Research the meaning of Babylon.

What is the connection between the text, the title and the definitions?

Look at the different social groups in Remembering Babylon.

1. Gemmys life in London as Willetts boy and the social effects on a particular class, of the Industrial Revolution. 2. The community life of the settlers and the difficulties they faced in the New World. 3. Life in Brisbane. The social world of the colonial Establishment. While reading take note of what the author says about different environments. These worlds are outside our own experience yet we must understand as best we can, the way human behaviour reflects social conditions. What kind of world is the author presenting in each section? Are class differences a part of the authors concerns in this novel? What is the nature of each of the above societies?

As you read imagine that you are a particular character, for example: a. In the scene where Gemmy is dragged to the water by the unseen gang, imagine you are an unwilling member, too frightened to stand apart (pp 121-2) b. Be George Abbot in the scene with Leona Gonzales (pp 88-92) c. Be Janet standing in the moonlight with her mother as her father returns from the creek with Gemmy (pp 124-5) As you engage with the creative process, try to imagine your way into the emotional feelings the character might be experiencing at the time. USE the above examples to write one or two paragraphs using patterns of speech and language appropriate to each character in a set of monologues. Speech patterns and nuances will help to establish differences. IN TWO columns list positive and negative words used to describe Gemmy in the early sections of the novel. What do these words suggest to you about the language used to describe someone who is different? When you have a firm grasp of the events of the novel, characters, themes and the effects of place, try to imagine the lives of particular characters in retrospect, using clues from the text. eg. Ellen McIvors life in Scotland, Andy McKillops early life or George Abbots dreams before Cousin Alisdair lost interest in him. This process may help you to understand the way characters behave.

Symbolic meanings
Religious or spiritual experiences are frequently represented by symbolic references. During your second or third reading of the novel, make a note of recurring images, symbols or motifs; look for a pattern of meaning they might represent. In the centre of a large circle write down one of the symbols. On lateral lines show where in the novel the symbol occurred and how you understand the way it is being used. Make as many circles as you have motifs. This diagrammatic exercise is also useful for themes and character development. Look up reference books on signs and symbols in order to gain a fuller understanding of what is being represented. Water, gardens, light, darkness, sight, bees, rats, birds, fruit are all present as representations of other things in this novel. Example one pp 106-7: note the symbolic references in the poetic passage which reveals a new softness in Jock McIvor. It is here that he faces and accepts the change Gemmy has made to his vision of himself. Example two: Bees can represent industry and order while beehives are recognised as symbols of unity and community. Use the diagram on the next page as an example of how to connect symbols to the events of the novel.

Diagram: The connections between bees and Remembering Babylon

Janet and the priest in Germany - her bee contact.

The connection to WW1 and the bees.

Janets connection (ongoing) with the bees - Janet as beekeeper at the convent.

Janet and Mrs Hutchence - fill in details of their relationship.

Gemmys presence at Janets transformation. Mrs Hutchence and the bees: What kind of person? What kind of influence?

What might the bees represent?

Section 4.



OST OF US are interested in other people, in how and why they think, behave and speak the way they do. It is important therefore that we understand the nature of the characters who make up the novel. Gemmys symbolic significance is established when he is first discovered - cleansed of a hideous past and all it represents to reenter life in a new land. The secondary characters in the novel are also important. Andy McKillop is a petty criminal with intensely hostile feelings towards Gemmy. George Herbert is the Premier of Queensland. His interests lie more with the small farming than the rough and tumble of colonial democracy, which he does not believe in... It will be useful to note what kinds of attitudes the secondary characters are imbued with. emmy Fairley is the novels central character in the main section. In his early years in London he suffered terrible violence. After burning his master alive, Gemmy stepped off the world. He reappears as water-logged flotsam off the coast of Queensland. By leaving London he had made a decision to survive; however there was no real choice involved in his destination. Life with the Aboriginal tribe who rescued him diminished him in the eyes of the white settlers he sought out after sixteen years. To them he was an emblem of fear, a parody of a white man. He becomes the focus for their fears and hostilities and, in some cases, their kindness. While he is constantly under attack, rejected and belittled he appears to contain no malevolence. The novels structure allows Gemmy to remain part of the narrative to its conclusion where he reappears as an important figure in Janet McIvors memory. eorge Abbot, the youthful schoolmaster had never meant to come to Australia, least of all to this outlandish part of it. His torment was of a different nature from Gemmys. He knew the falseness of his position and hated it. Rejection by a familial benefactor forced him to modify his expectations and come to a place which worked its defeats in a low way. The miserable young man finds solace and a sense of his own lightness in the acceptance and companionship of Leona Gonzales.

eona Gonzales and Mrs Hutchence are both surrounded by mystery. While they are a part of the community, they too remain outsiders. Their possessions suggest their intention to create something permanent in Australia. They are sophisticated, travelled and wise. Their environment is described as very light and airy, very open. The cane furniture brought from the East has a lacy lightness and Mrs Hutchence is described as shadowy and surrounded by smoke as she attends the bees. This dreamy quality in their lives is balanced against more solid images. Mrs Hutchence wears boots a size too big for her, she is strong, practical, aware of the importance of the natural world and at the same time a great story-teller. Of all the members of the settlement, her life seems perfectly integrated. Both women have a positive influence on the flawed members of the community, Hec Gosper, Gemmy and George Abbot. Mrs Hutchence shares her wisdom with Janet enabling her to see things, to let them enter her and reveal what they were. It is through Mrs Hutchence that Janets life-long interest in bees is established.

Might the author have introduced the name Leona Gonzales as a reference to the possibility of multiculturalism? McIvor is a man. Unlike his neighbours he is tolerant and understanding J ockGemmy. Jock strong-willed gardener in Scotland, and he made a conscious decision to of had been a

migrate to Australia for the benefit of his family. There was land there and sunlight...and spaces. Gemmys treatment at the hands of the prejudiced members of the settlement softens Jock McIvor. His support for Gemmy sets him apart from his community. In an intensely evocative passage he recognises two occasions of spiritual awakening that occur when he is alone, in nature. He recognises the change in himself and is grateful for it. ... he too was what he had always been; only he had been blind to it, or had put it out of his mind from an old wish to be accepted... (pp 106-7). Jock has received a kind of blessing suggested by words like, light, knowledge and self. The McIvors raise unusual children - Janet and her cousin Lachlan are both characters with integrity and imagination.

E llen McIvor was initially reluctant to migrate to aAustralia, a place which she feels has changed her husband from a lighthearted man to more serious person. She is homesick
and does not mix well with the other more shallow women. Ellen has buried two children in Australia and this more than anything else binds her to the country. Despite her own feelings of frustration and isolation, she is a positive influence and encourages both Lachlan and Janet to think independently. Both children take their place in the wider world in roles of leadership and compassion. McIvor. a child affection to Gemmy when lives J anet the family.AsWhile sheJanet shows consideration andmother-tongue, she seeks tohehear it with does not share her parents often. Janet is strongly attracted to Mrs Hutchence who recognises her sensibilities and encourages her love of natural things. Janet has progressive ideas. Her spiritual nature makes her receptive to the goodness of others. The brutal attack on Gemmy begins a change in Janets awareness. Following a tender moment with her mother she felt that ...a kind of knowledge had been passed to her. Perhaps this was ...the true moment of her growing up. Gemmy was aware of this aspect in her: ... an odd feeling would come over him that she was trying to see right into him, to catch his spirit, aware, as the others were not, that he was not entirely what he allowed them to see. Janet withstood the swarming of the bees because she believed in both Mrs Hutchence and God. Janets ability to acknowledge the power of love is a positive affirmation at the end of the novel. Beattie was an from poverty, but he learned love the Australian bush soon as much a as them... L achlanLachlans and wasunwilling arefugee bushmanher the best ofHe wastowayward, his youth aunt recognised certain spirit in nephew:

In he could go any way at all in this country that was all fits and changes, one thing one minute, another the next. Lachlans choice is to make a positive contribution to his country. His relationship with Janet is re-established through Janets concern for a German pastrycook, threatened with deportation. Once again, an outsider threatened by ignorance and prejudice is a focus for their mutual attention. and Frazer. Mr Frazer a clergyman who his sympathy native M rpeople Mrswhere heobsession theispotential for drawing makesnatural foods of for theinto the clear. His with botanical leads him on expeditions scrub country observes cultivating the the Australian bush.

Gemmy attributed to Mr Frazer a gift of understanding... He trusted the minister, and was happy in his presence to open himself entirely to whatever might emerge from their silent communing... (p 65). This unconditional trust was not entirely justified as the completed story became Mr Frazers Colonial fairy-tale. The ministers enthusiasm was tinged with conceit, he believed that the sympathy he felt for the man, which was very strong, gave him an infallible insight into what he was trying to get out. Mrs Frazer is a modern woman. The link she maintains with European intellectual thought, art, literature and ideas, separates her from other women in the settlement. Consider whether or not the characters are significant to the greater world of the novel, either as symbols relating to the central themes of the work or to the human condition in general. Can you relate to the fear of standing alone which Jock recognises in himself?

Section 5.



he way the author presents his subject matter, his point of view, helps to establish the themes. By building up a set of responses to a range of themes links between them will become obvious.

Identity and language

Make notes on the importance of language to the individuals identity. The following quotes relate to Gemmy. ...when he found speech again it was a complaint, against himself perhaps, in some whining blackfellers lingo. p 14 It was as if the language these people spoke was an atmosphere they moved in. p 40 Gemmys psychic self is in question. But had he remained white? and Could you lose it? Not just language, but it. It p 181 A drop of moisture sizzled on his tongue: the word - he had found it. Water. Slow dribbles of rain began to fall. Gemmy may be a British object but without language he cannot express himself adequately. He has however, survived sixteen years in the wilderness and is clearly able to communicate with the tribe who rescued him. What is David Malouf suggesting about the way language shapes not only our view of the world but our acceptance by others? Does the author show that there is a place for non-verbal language? When Lachlan Beattie first arrives from Scotland he used his own language to separate himself from his cousins. Janets fist ached to wipe the smug look from his face and Meg would whine at Lachlans Scottish brogue. The old tongue gave him a small power over the girls. Can you explain this? Mr Frazer presumes to know what Gemmy is attempting to tell him. What effect does this have on Gemmys story? What is Mr Frazers motivation?

Identity and place

List the characters who are unhappy about being in the colony. Support your list with quotations from the text. Landscape has both positive and negative resonances in the novel. Show how identity is moulded, altered by the effect of landscape. The settlers clear the new land in order to plant European plants. In the capital imported ideas and classical European references are appropriated by the colonisers to create a sense of

monument to the European civilisation of which they are a part. For Ellen McIvor, It was the fearful loneliness of the place that most affected her - the absence of ghosts. Why are some characters more affected by homesickness than others? What does Ellen want that she cannot have in Australia?

Re-read notes on characters and observe those who, like Jock McIvor had originally wanted to be somewhere else. What brought them to Australia? What were they seeking? Does the word exile have more than one meaning? Is the nature of exile different for different characters? What is the difference between Ellen McIvors wish to return to Scotland and George Herberts unhappiness in Australia?

Land and landscape

Whether in an imagined or a real place, Remembering Babylon reveals the importance of land and landscape to a persons identity. Mr Frazers interest in botanical drawing and his belief in the value of native foods finds little sympathy from Government House. He was an early conservationist, aware of the relationship between Aboriginal people and the land. He wrote, We must rub our eyes and look again, clear our minds of what we are looking for to see what is there. The Frazers live amongst the people but they are also outsiders. The one thing you could say of her was that she did not give herself airs. They would have complained if she had, but when she did not they feel cheated of the bit of colour she might have shown them ... For those who saw the land as something to fear, Stripping it of every vestige of the native made their environment more bearable. To what extent do the settlers try to recreate their former environments in Australia? To what extent do they accept and value the new landscape? What is the novel suggesting about people who can adapt to a landscape that does not meet their expectations?

Boundaries and barriers

Before Gemmys arrival parameters exist within and at the edges of the settlement. An entry in Mr Frazers notebook says of Gemmy, allowing himself to be at home here, he has crossed the boundaries of his given nature. (p.132) What part of Gemmy is Mr Frazer referring to? Indicate the different kinds of boundaries. How might boundaries of the mind work? How and why are boundaries constructed? Who and what are they keeping out? How are boundaries maintained? Discuss the metaphor of boundaries and their relationship to journeys and discovery.

Gemmy leapt from a paddock fence, from one world into another. What significance does the fence have?

Initially, fear and distrust combine to produce negative responses to Gemmy. The settlers are faced with someone who has come from a place all unknown to them. Many were overtly racist. Their attitudes towards Aboriginal people were dominated by fear. The whole cast of his face gave him the look of one of Them. Gemmy became a focus for ignorance and hysteria from the prejudiced members of the community. In the final section both Janet and Lachlan are drawn into unpleasant situations because of prejudice. With Germany and Australia at war, Janets correspondence with her priest-friend in Jena is at risk. Her German contact had become an official enemy. Lachlan was attacked for his offer of assistance to a German pastrycook under threat of deportation. New labels were put onto old relationships. Suspicion of the other remains a strong force in the novel. In Janets letter to Lachlan she wrote that She had no reason to believe her priest...was any more dangerous as a German, and a Roman, than she was as an Australian and a mere woman and a nun... (pp 187-8) What evidence do you have that the destructive element of nationalism exists in the world today?

Make a cluster diagram as a means of exploring any of the above themes in depth.

Section 6. A guided approach to selected passages

pp 20-21 Mute now, but with his tongue making shy appearances... to Lifting its blind head it was emerging coil on coil into the sun. In this passage reference is made to Gemmys lack of speech, his powers of observation and his relief at having his life understood. The dual reference to magic (this motif recurs throughout the novel) furthers the idea that Gemmy believes in the power of magic. He feels that the loss of his words which at first had come out as odd bursts of sound, half-meanings at most... had weakened his spirit. Note where the passage is in the novel, what has come before it and what follows and make connections to ideas, metaphors, motifs and symbols. Discuss the image of a tongue making shy appearances The names of Willett, Crouch, Mosey and The Irish first appear in this passage. What does the writing suggest about this group? Are they equally detestable in Gemmys eyes? What is the meaning of the word magic to Gemmy? What is the relevance of the snake metaphor which ends this first chapter? What does the black blood metaphor represent? Can you identify any of the novels themes in this passage?

pp 50-51 Australia. That was the word Mr Robertson had dropped into the room to ... as if nothing had meaning or consequence. Like Lachlan Beattie, George Abbot has also lost his father. Unlike Lachlan he does not have the comfort of a family when he arrives in Australia. God-forsaken, desolate, without hope, defeats, low, oppressive, clammy, insidiously, putrescence, garishly, brittle, overwrought, slothful, dingy, thin-shanked, degenerate, squalid, flea-ridden, are only some of the negatively charged words the author uses to create George Abbots feelings about his new environment and its inhabitants. Comment on the pattern of language here and show how it reflects the mood of the passage. What is it that makes George Abbot fearful? How is George Abbot defined in this passage? Is the authors sympathy with him at this point? Why does life seem so bleak to him? Does George Abbot seem fitted for his profession? Does this passage prepare us for any likely change in the schoolteacher? Can you identify any of the novels themes in this passage?

pp 106-107 It was as if he had seen the world till now, not through his own eyes... to He was sitting, himself, on a larger stone, also rounded, eating the last of a sandwich, his boots in mud. Compare the language of this passage to the previous one. Why is this passage poetic while the previous one is not? What has made the transformation in Jock McIvor? How does he recognise it? How important to the McIvor family is Jocks recognition of what has happened to him? Can you identify any of the novels themes in this passage?

pp 141-143 It was on a hot day not long after Gemmy had moved ... to ... her two feet planted square on the earth. Janets epiphany takes place in this passage. Observe the language. Before the bees swarm onto Janet the mood of the day is charged with an almost surreal force of nature. The day had been oppressive, steamy with a sky which was glowering, bronze with a greenish edge to it, that bruised the sight. While the bees are crusted over her Janet moves into a space outside of her self. She has dreamy wrists She is unsure whether or not she is in a shadowy grove or perhaps she believes she is in heaven. She stood sleeping. This experience with the bees influences Janet's life. What role does Mrs Hutchence play in Janets development? When she has recovered, Janet refers to a miracle having occurred. What is miraculous about the bees swarming on Janet? How does Gemmy fit into the events of this day? What links can you make with the spiritual effect of the bees to Janets future? Why is Janet the most likely character to have such an experience?

pp 168-170 But once the report was rendered harmless... to ... he is an imposter. Sir George Bowen has been sent to Australia to create a new self-governing state, Parallel with his references to his new country are reminders to himself of what he has left behind. Analogy is his drug. He finds it everywhere Mr Frazer has presented the Governor with a report detailing Gemmys assistance in his search for the native fruits and foods which he believes could be grown as crops. Why is Sir George suspicious of Mr Frazers report? What does Homer have to do with Mr Frazers visit? Why does Sir George need analogy to keep his spirits up? What does Sir George have in common with other new arrivals to Australia?

In this passage, Sir Georges constant allusions to a classical past intrude. How do these references link up with any of the novels themes? How do the Governors attitudes reflect the authors concerns about European influence? Does the Governor seem a positive force in the new capital?

SELECT one passage from each of the following sections of the novel
the settlers hostility towards Gemmy. the McIvor family discussing Scotland. Mr Frazers notes. life in the capital. the final section dealing with Lachlan and Janet.

Use the text to support your discussion. Consider the tone of each passage Comment on the way language is used (HOW something is said often reveals as much as WHAT is being said.) David Malouf is a poet; he believes that when people say I couldnt put that book down, its the narrative rhythm they are responding to. In your discussion of the passages show how the rhythm of the prose works to shape meaning. What effect is the author seeking to achieve in the passage? Write a short response showing how you understand these passages in the context of the novel.

Section 7. Topics for discussion and writing

7.1 Extended text responses

1. I dont understand, little Meg would whine. Whats splairgin? Whats a mouthful o mools? To what extent is Megs problem with understanding a central concern of the novel? 2. In her article Maloufs Objectionable Whitewash, Germaine Greer attacks the author for having no commitment to historical truth. In a response, Suzanne Falkiner suggests that Maloufs book is a work of the imagination, a metaphor, a poetic novel... Which of these views do you support? (It is important that students read both articles before tackling this topic. For copyright reasons we are unable to reproduce the articles here. Details are given in the resources section at the end of these notes. A copy of each article is on file in the VATE office for teacher reference purposes.) 3. The author has stated: I hope by the end of Remembering Babylon the reader, by the genuine process of looking, understanding and going deeper, will feel less confident about making easy assessments of people and categories. Show how this statement reflects your own response to this novel.

4. How does Remembering Babylon reflect the stages and development of Australia up to the First World War?

5. Compare the sense of place depicted in the settlement near Bowen to the fledgling city of Brisbane. 6. In portraying inhabitants of the New World whose roots are in Europe, Malouf helps us to understand the role of the past in all our lives. How far would you agree with this statement? 7. David Malouf has stated that a writer must be a voyeur, a spy - even a burglar of other peoples memories, stealing experiences. (Dir: Richard Tipping 1985) Discuss.

8. The essay on page 3 of these notes is one perspective on the text. Students should be encouraged to write individual perspectives in which they identify and expand on another of the novels significant themes.


Short text responses

1. We have been wrong to see this continent as hostile and infelicitous, so that only by the fiercest stoicism, a supreme resolution and force of will, and by felling, clearing, sowing with the seeds we have brought with us, and by importing sheep, cattle, rabbits, even the very birds of the air, can it be shaped and made habitable. What is Mr Frazers view of the new world and its new inhabitants? 2. How far does Remembering Babylon reflect a class system with its portrayal of farmers, professionals and aristocrats? 3. Read Germaine Greers article (Maloufs Objectionable Whitewash) carefully. Discuss the way she attacks the author of Remembering Babylon, making reference to the language she uses to make her point. Do you feel the article is sufficiently objective to be influential? Say why or why not, using examples from the writing. 4. Jock McIvor worked as a gardener in his homeland. In his notebook Mr Frazer refers to Gods garden. Discuss the importance of the garden in terms of the way the settlers view their new land. 5. As George Abbot, make a diary entry at the end of the session where you and Mr Frazer have written down Gemmys story. 6. The landscape, especially the land being used for agriculture, is a powerful element in the early part of the novel. Discuss the significance of landscape in the novel. (Brisbane is also part of the landscape) 7. Write brief character studies of Ellen and Janet McIvor and Mrs Hutchence. How do you interpret the authors treatment of the role of women in Remembering Babylon? Illustrate your response with quotes from the text. 8. As George Abbot make a diary entry at the end of the session where you and Mr Frazer have written down Gemmys story.


Oral responses
Working in a pair, conduct an interview with Mrs Hutchence soon after Gemmy has gone to live with her. Give a talk on the place of love in Remembering Babylon. In groups of three create a situation in which one person has more power than the others. Let language be a focus for the power. (Consider the writing on the wall of the McIvors shed) With a partner, create a dialogue between Janet and Lachlan in the monastery garden. Centre your conversation around Gemmys time in the settlement and the way you perceive the changes he made to your lives.

2. 3.



Construct an interview between Germaine Greer and David Malouf in which the author defends himself against the charge that Remembering Babylon is a supremacist fantasy. As George Abbot, visit Ellen McIvor to talk about the difference Leona Gonzales has made to your view of life in the settlement.


Section 8


Falkiner, Suzanne Grumpy, petty Greer The Age 9 November 1993 Ferguson, George Signs and Symbols in Christian Art, OUP 1989 Greer, Germaine Maloufs Objectionable Whitewash The Age 3 November 1993 Malouf, David Imagining the real Interactions, An Anthology of Contemporary Writing, Bretz and Fitzgibbon Macmillan, Australia 1989 Malouf, David Remembering Babylon, Vintage Books 1994 Neilsen, Philip Imagined Lives. A Study of David Malouf UQP 1996 Tipping, Richard (Dir/Prod) David Malouf, An Imaginary Life (Video) 1985