Post-Colonial Themes in David Malouf's Remembering Babylon Essay

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Post-Colonial Themes in David Malouf's Remembering Babylon

It is interesting to note that, although in the context of this MA course we are studying Malouf's novel in terms of a post-colonial response, the author himself has expressed the opinion that it is not, strictly speaking, a post-colonial text. Most would agree with Malouf in that it is certainly not an example of resistance or response from a member of a colonised community in the same vein as, for example, Chinua Achebe or some Native Canadian authors. Rather, it can be seen as an examination of the colonial project by a descendant of the original colonisers.

Nevertheless, there are several themes running through the novel which constitute elements of post-colonial
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Malouf demonstrates the failure of the colonial project, with the blame laid squarely at the feet of those Europeans who fail to see the possibilities embodied in Gemmy.

Instead, they see only the threat of the 'blackfeller', who is revealed to be still in contact with his adopted people. Fuelled by the paranoid siege mentality brought about by fear of the unknown landscape, the settlers drive Gemmy away, unable to face the terrible knowledge which he brings - that the qualities which make them 'superior' may be more fragile than they think. Gemmy brings with him the unthinkable possibility than you could lose 'it....Not just language but it. It.'(p.40) Those who try to face this knowledge and ally themselves with Gemmy and what he represents become estranged from their community, and although they arrive at a new understanding of themselves and the landscape which supports them, it is clear that the cultural gap is too wide to bridge.

It is this still-extant cultural gap which results in the novel's aboriginal figures remaining totally unknowable; Malouf is unwilling, and unable, to appropriate the voice of the
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