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'Post-colonial' is a poetic and wildly experimental account of cultural intrusion and appropriation from one of Australia's finest and most prolific writers. Questioning what it is that constitutes nation and place, particularly in reference to Australia itself, Kinsella's narrator travels to the Cocos Islands to collect oral histories. Disaffected and unsure of his own role there, and cast adrift upon an ocean of his own dependencies, the narrator offers not only a fragmented tale of crisis, but also a sophisticated exploration of issues of history and self-determination among the local Cocos Malay of Home Island and the non-Cocos Malay foreigners of West Island. 'Post-colonial' is also a novel about how we read so-called post-colonial texts. It is a work in which time frames and time signatures shift, events are retold, and the reader is led to ask questions about the nature of history itself. Ranging from the 'natural' and 'real' to the fantastical, the narrative is in constant flux. History is erased, lost, reclaimed, and restated. As Nicholas Birns says in his introduction, 'a dark pastoral - one ineffably coloured by insignificance and absence'. We grasp as much what is missing as we do what is there, what threatens the sense of place as much as what maintains it. The sense of fragility and dependence, of scenic poverty and ecological persistence, brings to us Cocos as a fact, not a vista.
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