‘Deadly’ Work: Reading the Short Fiction of Archie Weller


When an Aboriginal writer appropriates western literary forms to tell stories of pre-invasion tribal heritage and culture, there is little objection from many black or white readers. After all, these stories seem to allow complex and ancient Aboriginalities some vitality, and perhaps at the same time absolve white middle-class Australian guilt in a non-threatening, indeed entertaining, way. The moment of colonisation remains embedded in the hearts and minds of Aboriginal people, yet remains distant enough from the world of contemporary white Australia to leave the (re)solutions sometimes too close to tokenism. The Nyoongah author, Archie Weller, for instance, can be (under)read and (mis)understood as a chronicler of despair, squalor and violence; as a 'relentless realist' with a bent for the romantic (Tiffin 223). These patterns of reading have been perpetuated mostly by white academics/audiences who construct the frames for reading Aboriginal literature in a cultural context. To date, it has been acceptable to allow the politics and problems involved in reading Weller's short fiction to over-concentrate on appraisals of the success of his appropriation of western genres and modes of representation.

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Published 1 October 1993 in Volume 16 No. 2. Subjects: Aboriginal Australians, Aboriginal fringe dwellers, Aboriginal literature, Aboriginal oral tradition, Aboriginal relationship with the land, Australian fiction, Australian literary criticism, Film scripts & screenplays, Landscape & identity, Literary adaptations, Literary portrayal, Narrative techniques, Noongar, Queensland, Racial identity - Literary portrayal, Wit & humour.

Cite as: Little, Janine. ‘‘Deadly’ Work: Reading the Short Fiction of Archie Weller.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 16, no. 2, 1993, doi: 10.20314/als.f0343c97ea.