May 16, 2010

AWRF10: Anne Salmond & Thomas Keneally


Ana from Readers Services enjoyed Anne Salmond and Thomas Keneally's stories at their first AWRF 2010 event, ie the pure state (Kim-less) one. She shares a few with us.

Two historians talking about two different countries but with one thing in common: they are both passionate about history, and like to bring forgotten stories back to life.

Anne Salmond went to Auckland University to study Maori history and Anthropology. There she met Eruera and Amiria Stirling, an amazing couple, and spent a long time with them talking and listening to people recounting oral history and talking about their ancestors on the marae.

Thomas Keneally was a schoolteacher in Sydney and was studying law but gave up everything to become a writer. He said he did this because he was ignorant and didn’t know much about publishing houses. He likes writing novels because he says he can tell lies if he wants.

They took turns presenting, and switched between Australia and New Zealand. What they do as historians is “time travelling” because, as Salmond says, you look at a map many times and try to guess where Captain Cook’s ship was positioned, but this is not enough. “You need to go to the places and smell the smells”. Keneally agrees with her, but this got him into trouble when he was writing “Towards Asmara” about the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea and he had to go there, even though, he says, he is a coward.

Salmond said that New Zealand and Australia were very different countries before the Europeans arrived. She has always been very curious about the first meeting between Maori and Europeans, when Captain Cook’s ship “The Endeavour” arrived. He came to shore with other sailors in small boats, having left four sailors guarding the ship, but they were surprised by Maori and attacked with spears. One of the Maori was shot. And that's the way it was, in those days.

Keneally pointed out that New Zealand had the Treaty of Waitangi but there was never a treaty in Australia. In Australia the Aboriginals had a “land title”. There were two reactions by the Aboriginals to becoming an occupied people. On the one hand, they wanted to “enchant” the Europeans away, make them disappear. On the other, they wanted to attack them.

Keneally spent a long time researching and writing about Irish convicts, and told how “even very obscure Irish peasants become alive for you” until "they are drinking beer with you".  For Salmond, too, after reading all the logs of Captain Cook and his adventures the people in his voyages become a presence.

Ditulis Oleh : tosca // 02:30
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