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Remembering Babylon [Paperback]

David Malouf
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
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Book Description

19 May 1994
A searing and magnificent picture of Australia at the moment of its foundation, with early settlers staking out their small patch of land and terrified by the harsh and alien continent. Focussing on the hostility between the early British inhabitants and the native Aborigines. Remembering Bablyon tells the tragic and compelling story of a boy who finds himself caught between the two worlds. Shot through with humour, and written with the poetic intensity that characterised Malouf's An Imaginary Life, this is a novel of epic scope yet it is simple, compassionate and universal: a classic.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (19 May 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 009930242X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099302421
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 12.8 x 19.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 53,814 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Malouf dares a style in which a metaphor clinches a whole personality, while the common act of looking at the light and plants of Australia produces plainly spiritual transformations." (Francis Spufford The Guardian (London))

"Remembering Babylon is another rare chance to read a work by one of the few contemporary novelists who examines our constantly battered humanity and again and again brings out its lingering beauty" (Terry Goldie The Globe and Mail (Canada))

"There are passages of aching beauty in Remembering Babylon, and passages of shocking degradation. Mr. Malouf has written a wonderfully wise and moving novel, a novel that turns the history and mythic past of Australia into a dazzling fable of human hope and imperfection" (New York Times)

"A dazzling novel...The story has moments of such high intensity that they remain scorched in memory. As the story moves forward to its conclusion, we go unwillingly with it, not wanting this book, with the wisdom it contains, to stop speaking to us." (The Toronto Star)

"The novel is beautifully written. Malouf's Queensland shimmers." (Susan Geason The Sun Herald (Sydney, Austrailia))

Book Description

A young boy caught in the conflict between early British settlers and native Aborigines witnesses the barbaric tensions that bedeviled the birth of a nation in this profound and mythical novel.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dealing with fears of the unknown 9 April 2005
'Remembering Babylon' is the third novel that I have read by this wonderfully accomplished Australian writer: the other two, both of which would unreservedly get a 5-star rating, are 'Child's Play', an exploration of the mind of a young man planning a terrorist act in Rome, and 'A Great World', dealing with the impact of war on two Australian men. 'Remembering Babylon' well-deserves the plaudits lavished upon it, which include winning the inaugural IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, the Commonwealth Writers' Prize and the Miles Franklin Award, as well as being short-listed for the Booker.
The plot of 'Remembering Babylon' revolves around Gemmy, a white youth who is taken in by an isolated settlement of Scottish migrants in mid-nineteenth century Queensland. Gemmy has been living for many years with an Aboriginal community who found him washed ashore after the then young cabin-boy had been thrown overboard. The remainder of the novel essentially examines the interaction between Gemmy and the white community: Malouf achieves this by relating the thoughts and actions of Gemmy and the expertly-crafted range of diverse characters within the settlement. Although compassion and tolerance are shown by members of this community towards Gemmy, the novel mainly illustrates the mistrust and fear that even supposedly civilised individuals and communities show for that which is unknown or incompletely understood. Thus, the white community is fearful of the 'half-savage' white boy within their midst; the hostile, alien Australian landscape, and the native inhabitants of the land, whilst Gemmy is mistrustful of many of the settlers and afraid of the answers to his self-examination as to his own identity.
'Remembering Babylon' offers a range of treats for those interested in language.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What is then this New Man, Gemmy Fairley? 23 July 2001
By A Customer
David Malouf depicts yet another specimen of humanity in his novel, Remembering Babylon. In the middle of the nineteenth century, Gemmy Fairley, the young man who has lost his essential whiteness among the aborigines in the heart of the unknown emerges as the real son of Australia. Having lived a very sordid childhood as the boy of a heartless rat-catcher, he experienced nothing but what was ignoble and degrading in the underpriviledged white world that nursed him. When he is found by a tribe of aborigines, he is lightly taken in by the new community. He gradually sloughs off his white selfhood and goes deeper and deeper into the heart of nature - the tender womb of Australia from which he emerges again as the Australian New Man. when he steps into the closed world of the White Man after sixteen years, he is only grudgingly taken in as a painful example of white degradation in alien surroundings. With a penetrating wit and a florid style, David Malouf depicts the fateful encounter between British White civilisation and the weird product of its transformation on the edge of the 'livable' world. Malouf's prose teems with the life of nature and the tumult of human emotions. His language is profoundly poetic and his varied concoctions of words come to testify to the depth and intensity of meaning. With Malouf, you have access to the human in its most profound sense.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fear and Ignorance 23 Nov 2002
By taking a rest HALL OF FAME
Mr. David Malouf has the ability to take familiar topics, amend them, and create a new viewpoint, a valid book, and worthwhile reading experience. Fear generated by the unknown as perceived by ignorant or well-educated simpletons is not new. That these feelings are often expressed in terms of racial tension; hatred and violence are routine, not an exception, and anything but a novelty. In, "Remembering Babylon" the Author tells the tale in a manner new for me, and even though the behaviors of many involved were predictable, the new perspective and quality the Author brings to it made for very good reading.

As he has in previous works he sets the tale in Australia, and once again brings settlers from Europe, in this case Scotland. Mr. Malouf then takes a familiar human interaction, which is by definition tragic, and it is here he makes it his own. In terms of Race, Gemmy is as white as any of the settlers. He spent thirteen years in London, and then was washed upon the coast of Australia where he then lives amongst the Native Aborigines for sixteen years. As Gemmy has lived the better part of his life is the harsh sun he is no longer as light in complexion as the self-described white newcomers. Gemmy one day happens across the path of some children, and in fear of his safety announces he "is a British Object". The irony of this statement could be dwelt on for pages by itself.

There are many relationships a reader can explore in this story. I felt a key one was between Gemmy and the family headed by Jock that takes him in. Jock does so to please his wife, as Gemmy is not a person he would bring into his home of his own volition.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How civilized is "civilization"? 23 Oct 2003
Setting this book in the mid-1800's on the nearly uninhabited north coast of Australia provides David Malouf with plenty of leeway to explore some of his favorite themes. The book begins with the return to "civilization" of an English cabinboy who had gone overboard twelve years prior and had been nursed by aborigines. With the north coast now being settled by people fearful of the shy aborigines, who they think may be a threat to them, all the characters are frightened by their isolation: the settlers from life in England, from the more populated centers of Australia, from the aborigines, sometimes from each other, and certainly from the strange young cabinboy who has made contact with them; the former cabinboy from his "countrymen," from the society of the sailors he served, from the aborigines who nursed him, and from the new society now being established on the north coast.
All have differing views of reality, different values, and different understandings of what is important. The reader is forced to question what constitutes "civilization" and to ponder the extent to which we can have a "real" world without recognizing the importance of the supernatural and respecting those people who allow it to inform and transform their lives. As in "The Conversations at Curlow Creek" and in "Harland's Half Acre," Malouf's main character must decide whether he will live in civilization as he has found it. Mary Whipple
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Remembering Babylon.
An interesting book highlighting Australia and with insights into Aborigini beliefs.
Published 17 days ago by Christine Denovan
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic
A brilliant book. A classic and well-worth reading, though emotionally hard at times. A powerful story of how our culture has treated other cultures and minority people in the... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Romey Chaffer
5.0 out of 5 stars a book club recommendation
we enjoyed the discussion that followed -- it raises issues worthy of discussion and although strange in parts worthy of recommendation
Published 6 months ago by fiona warman
5.0 out of 5 stars Australian Literature
I am a particular fan of Australian literature and film. This book is an amazing analysis of the basis of racism which really makes you think unlike the knee jerk reaction one so... Read more
Published 6 months ago by J. C. Cracknell
5.0 out of 5 stars Bought as apresent
I am unable to rate this purchase as it was bought as a present and I am unlikely to get any feedback.
Published 14 months ago by A. John Chubb
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
Though interesting from an historical point of view, I found this book rather drawn out and tedious to read which I did for a book group. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Meg
5.0 out of 5 stars One of several from David
this book tells the story of colonisation in Australia through the eyes of a group of families north of Brisbane. Read more
Published 16 months ago by tony
5.0 out of 5 stars Remembering Babylon
I read this on a journey to Australia and it certainly helped to pass the time. An unusual story beautifully told.
Published 16 months ago by peter M Hudson
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written
An intriguing premise and beautiful writing that draws you in. My only criticism is that the story tails off rather and leaves you feeling that you may have missed something.
Published 17 months ago by L. M. Gustine
5.0 out of 5 stars Remembering Babylon by David Malouf
Poetic and captivating- Beautiful writing which captures a period and interior life of the characters. Read more
Published 17 months ago by secretriver
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