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Inscribing China: Australian Fictional Representations 1979-1989

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posted on 27.05.2020, 04:12 by Yuan-fang Shen

China, the so-called 'enigma of the Orient', has challenged the Western

imagination for centuries. 'From the earliest traveller's tales, to reach Europe', the

Australian novelist and diplomat Nicholas Jose notes, 'to Voltaire and Coleridge,

and on to the present day, China as strange, curious, awe-inspiring Cathay has

attracted writers as a realm for tall tales, fantasy and the revelation of profound

mysteries, a fabled zone of difference.'1 As China has emerged as a power to be

reckoned with politically and economically, the Western world's interest in it has

increased. In Australia, for instance, Asianists have come to the fore in intellectual

circles, and a 'new wave of interest and activity is occurring' . Books about or

referring to China have been published with increasing frequency. With the

appearance of critically acclaimed novels such as Alex Miller's Miles Franklin award

winner The Ancestor Game (1992) and Brian Castro's After China (1992), the

judgement that 'China has attracted writers, and turned people into writers, but has

not helped to produce masterpieces', perhaps needs revising.

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