MAPS OF MIGRATION
DAVID MALOUF'S FLY AWAY PETER
Poetic is the word most often used to describe David Malouf's work. He started out as a poet and has published five volumes to date. He also taught in the English Department at Sydney University--so it is hardly surprising to find a 'literariness' in his work which stylistically takes the form of a verbal compression that can make the apparent simplicity of his writing not so much difficult to penetrate, but unaccountably opaque. On first reading, Malouf is sometimes not easy and newcomers may find Fly Away Peter not to their taste. If teachers find students hesitant, they should encourage them to stay with it. It's worth the time and attention.
While Malouf's work has links with other novelists, comparisons with poets also suggest themselves. Blake for instance--in 'Auguries of Innocence':
To see the World in a Grain of Sand
And Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in .an hour.
Fly Away Peter, like The Great World, Malouf's latest work published in February this year, begins with the grain of sand and opens out on the world. Both novels are about Australian men, quiet rural blokes, who have a laconic affinity with the natural world. They are circumspect and outwardly unremarkable, but Malouf is interested in revealing (what many writers have regarded as a contradiction in terms!) an imaginative, spiritual dimension to the Aussie stereotype. Jim Saddler, like Digger in The Great World, has more to him than meets the eye. And like his counterparts in World War I1, Jim's world is enlarged (but not notably improved) by the Great War.
In Fly Away Peter, Malouf maps Jim and his environment in the zoological terms of habitat:
He moved always on these two levels, through these two worlds: the flat world of individual grassblades, seen so close up that they blurred, where the ground¬feeders darted about striking at worms, and the long view in which...