Robert Dessaix is one of Australia's most respected writers and broadcasters. His previous books include A Mother's Disgrace and Night Letters. He lives in Melbourne. Kester Berwick (1903-1992) wrote the little-known novel, Head Of Orpheus Singing.
The good and simple news about Robert Dessaix's new novel is that it is like Night Letters only better. It is richer, stronger, fuller than Night Letters. More playful, less tentative, yet retaining the voice: conversational, bitchy, profound, funny. The narrator of Corfu is nameless, not exactly an everyman, but a traveller on his way home to Adelaide, entangled in a hopeful, tentative affair. Corfu is about the lure of the exotic and embracing our ordinariness. Dessaix works something of a magician's trick with Kester Berwick, the Australian writer, actor and teacher whose absence lies like a riddle at the centre of the story. When the narrator stays briefly at Berwick's home, he becomes entwined with the village's expat community. Berwick escaped Adelaide in the 1930s for a life elsewhere, and the city of churches remains the butt of jokes, sometimes good-natured. The hiatus is also the narrator's opportunity to consider, in that elliptical, swooping and typically Dessaix-ian manner, the puzzles of his own desire. As in previous books, Dessaix is preoccupied with questions of travel and home, and uses his favoured paths to explore them: the Greek myths (of course); Chekov and Russian literature; mysticism and the sacred in everyday life. Mike Shuttleworth is a freelance reviewer. C. 2001 Thorpe-Bowker and contributors