Seen and Unseen: a century of stories from Asia and the Pacific by Russell Darnley OAM, a book launch.
Dr David Reeve, Conjoint Associate Professor UNSW will launch the book followed by a reading from Russell.
The book comprises 29 short stories inspired by three generations of living and working in the Asia/Pacific region blending anthropology, botany, ecology, economics, geography, history, politics and spiritual traditions.
Russell's stories are chronological and incremental. They begin in 1914 with his grandfather Sid Thompson, a member of the little known ANMEF Australia’s first WWI expeditionary force confronting malaria and dengue in New Guinea. Sid also appears in ‘Red Poppies and Janur’. Several stories address changing Australian views of Japan through the encounters with ordinary people. ‘Joss Sticks and Cracker Night’ and ‘An Encounter with White Australia’ reveal Asian influences in Anglo-Australia of the 1950s. ‘First Landfall’ and ‘The Sublime to the Horrific’ chronicle his own first bumbling attempts at adjusting to life in Asia.
Half of the stories are set over an 18-year period in Indonesia contrasting the comforts of urban life with the ruggedness of forest life. Some engage with major cultural differences while others deal with matters of more global significance. ‘Campaign’ and ‘The General Election’ are on the ground stories taking two Australians and Indonesian friends through Indonesia’s transition to democracy.
‘An Unusual Kind Of Thunder’ and ‘In The Charnel House’ deal directly with the Bali Bombings of 2002 while ‘My Second Meeting With Jonathan’ unfolds later as he meets the family of a victim whose brother is now UK Foreign Minister.
Influencing his work is an idea that interactions with people from our own culture are generally tangible and familiar, but when we move beyond the familiar, meaning and understanding must often be carefully negotiated. Another influence is the Balinese belief that reality is an interaction of Sekala (The Seen) and Niskala (The Unseen).