The day before I started reading Paul Giles’s Backgazing: Reverse Time in Modernist Culture for this review, I was writing about John A Scott’s story ‘André Breton in Melbourne’. This text was part of the original manuscript of Scott’s novel N, but was removed and published in Southerly before the novel’s publication in 2014. Scott imagines Breton travelling to Melbourne in 1942, where Sidney Nolan shows him photographs of Ned Kelly, whose armour Breton immediately recognises as ‘an expression of a more primitive form of the surreal’ (53). Arrested as a subversive and thrown into the same cell where Kelly was held before his execution, Breton escapes through a tunnel that eventually leads him, through a glitch in time and space, to join the explorers in Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth. After this adventure, Breton is dismayed at having been transported back to 1863,…
Review of Backgazing: Reverse Time in Modernist Culture by Paul Giles
Backgazing: Reverse Time in Modernist Culture by Paul Giles is an erudite and perceptive account of how the literature of Australia and New Zealand entwine with the key texts and ideas of literary and artistic modernism. Its particular value is how it shows, with satisfying weight, the value of both the antipodes and its literature on the global stage.
Backgazing: Reverse Time in Modernist Culture by Paul Giles. Oxford University Press, 2019.
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