Warning: Post Contains Rude Words (But none that you haven’t heard before, alas).
Are you ready? Let’s go. Piss, shit, fuck, blood, sweat, faggot, cock, arse, semen, wog, smack, coke, kike, lube, amyl nitrate. Still with me? If so, you might just be able to make it to the end of Christos Tsiolkas’s lauded 2005 novel Dead Europe.
Tsiolkas, of course, is currently enjoying enormous critical and commercial success with his subsequent novel The Slap, though the book is not without its detractors. My guess is that those who were disturbed or offended by The Slap are unlikely to warm to Dead Europe, which is a darker and grittier read. That said, if you can stay with it, Tsiolkas delivers a searing examination of politics, religion, hatred and why we believe what we do.
Dead Europe is comprised of two parallel narratives initially separated by a century and half the globe, but which eventually intersect. At its heart, it is the story of Isaac, a Melbourne photographer who leaves his home and lover, Colin, to travel to Greece for an exhibition of his work, and then on around Europe in an attempt to understand the continent his parents left- and both love and revile- decades earlier. Always confrontational, Dead Europe should come with a product warning: Contains anti-Semitic rants, regular violent gay sex, vampires that are actually frightening (rather than broody, pubescent and emo), the desecration of graves, and a vivid description of voyeuristic paedophilia.
Despite (and maybe because) of all this, I couldn’t put it down. Tsiolkas is a masterful writer, and Dead Europe – which won the 2006 The Age Book of the Year award- is a dense, in-your-face, but ultimately deeply thought-provoking novel. Strap yourself in and take the grand tour.
Kylie Ladd is a freelance writer whose essays and articles have appeared in The Age, Griffith Review, Etchings, O magazine, The Sydney Morning Herald, Good Medicine, Sydney’s Child, and Readers Digest, amongst others. In 2006 she co-authored Living with Alzheimer’s and Other Dementias (Michelle Anderson Publishing), and in 2008 co-edited Naked: Confessions of Adultery and Infidelity (Allen and Unwin). She holds a PhD in neuropsychology and continues to work in public and private practice in this field.
Kylie loves reading, swimming, running, the beach, reading, eating, reading, her PC and reading. She lives in Melbourne (and Broome), Australia with her husband, Craig, and two young children.
After the Fall is her first novel.
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