The latest issue of the Griffith Review is no 55, is called State of Hope and it is about contemporary South Australia. It is edited by Julianne Schultz and Patrick Allington and the issue consists of short essays and memoir, fiction pieces and poetry, and photo stories. Authors include Robyn Archer, John Spoehr, Peter Stanley, Angela Woollacott, Kerryn Goldsworthy, Chris Wallace, Dennis Atkins, Nicholas Jose, and Ali Cobby Eckermann. This is an Adelaide and South Australia as primarily seen by those working within a literary culture that includes print journalists in the mainstream media (i.e. Murdoch’s Advertiser no less).
The Griffith Review is a leading literary magazine in Australia that sees itself as a “high quality, agenda-setting, quarterly publication, delivering insight into the issues that matter most in a timely, authoritative and engaging fashion”. Griffith Review peer reviews the submissions to its various issues and nearly all of the members of the expert panel academics in universities in the eastern states. Previous issues have been devoted to Tasmania and Queensland.
What is presented in these texts is the public role of writers as public intellectuals. Writers, it seems, have a role to to challenge and arouse the nation–ie., to speak truth to power— given the pressures of the new media technologies and the forces of globalisation on Australia’s literary culture—and, thankfully, the old split between between academe, creative writer and critic is absent.
The market blurb to the State of Hope text says that:
As the industrial model that shaped twentieth-century South Australia is replaced by an uncertain future, now more than ever the state needs to draw on the strengths of its past in order to move ahead. Now, on the cusp of change, the state needs to draw on its talent for experiment and innovation in order to thrive in an increasingly competitive world. State of Hope explores the economic, social, environmental and cultural challenges facing South Australia, and the possibilities of renewal and revitalisation.
This is a reasonable assessment. South Australia is undergoing extensive de-industrialization that began in the 1970s and an uncertain post-industrial future does loom. However, South Australia is not alone in this–eg., witness Victoria. The process of de-industrialization and an uncertain future also applies to Australia as a whole after the mining boom. I also concur that the big shift to renewable energy in South Australia, as noted by some contributors, is an indication of the shape of a new future for the state.
One characteristic of State of Hope that I found surprising was the heavy doses of nostalgia with respect to the subjective memoirs of childhood and youth remembered in Adelaide in many of the literary contributions. This nostalgia about the good times in South Australia’s past—-eg., when South Australia under Don Dustan could claim to lead the nation in politics, culture and civic virtue— does not engage with the contemporary revitalisation of urban life in the CBD.
Contemporary Adelaide, which is undergoing rapid change–not just decline– is overlooked by the looking backwards to the golden days of cheerful, suburban life in the 1960s and 1970s. That is 40-50 years ago. So what about now—everyday urban life in contemporary Adelaide? Continue Reading…