To voice or not to voice the Tasmanian Aborigines : novels by Matthew Kneale and Richard Flanagan


  • Celia Margaret Wallhead Salway



Kneale, Matthew, English Passengers, Flanagan, Richard, Gould's Book of Fish, Literatura postcolonial, Literatura australiana, Aborígenes, Tasmania, Colonización, Marginación


The current debate in post-colonial studies continues to include discussions of whether it is licit or politically correct to represent, for the purposes of entertainment, or even edification, the situation of peoples who have suffered under colonisation. We ask if it is better to avoid the subject altogether and forget them, or give them a voice, even if it means recreating their humiliation and pain. A particularly extreme case is chosen for study here: that of the extermination of the Tasmanian Aborigines. There has been a spate of books on the subject in the last year or two, both fiction and non-fiction, which have added to the debate. I look more closely at two prize-winning novels: Matthew Kneale’s English Passengers and Richard Flanagan’s Gould’s Book of Fish. Analysis of their approach, setting, narrative strategies and characterisation reveals that this post-colonial generation of writers is understandably much more sensitive than the generation which first began to question colonisation, of which Conrad is the most visible. Kneale and Flanagan attempt to give a voice to the hitherto silenced Aborigines, and create individual figures instead of stereotypes. They also portray marginalised Europeans who suffered alongside the natives, and show them, not only as fully human, but also noble and talented.


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How to Cite

Wallhead Salway, Celia Margaret. 2003. “To Voice or Not to Voice the Tasmanian Aborigines : Novels by Matthew Kneale and Richard Flanagan”. Alicante Journal of English Studies / Revista Alicantina De Estudios Ingleses, no. 16 (November):283-95.