Beyond Borders: Latest News

Razor wire, the mark of many a contemporary border

A word about borders

Both physical and unseen borders have long been with us but for numerous reasons have not always been permanent, their locations and porosity varying over time. When I first left Australia, travelling from Sydney to Perth and on to Singapore in 1972 I crossed as many as twenty-six ancient borders within Australia. Such ancient borders are found within most nation-states.

Creative non-fiction

Beyond Borders is a work of 21 short stories, as creative non-fiction. These stories conclude as we enter the third decade of the twenty-first century, a time when borders are tighter in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In this work of creative non-fiction, I have recreated events, locales, and conversations from my memories of them.

Protecting the anonymity of some characters, particularly in a story like Iniquity Shall Abound, has meant that at times I’ve changed the names of individuals, characteristics that might identify them, and details such as physical properties, occupations, places of residence, and so forth.

The physical and temporal settings

Beyond borders is set in Australia and Asia.

The stories begin in Australia 2002 with reflections on another’s childhood, one very different from my own, and then move from my own childhood, adolescence and on into adulthood. Some stories explore both past and the present, extending beyond simple temporal borders.

Having spent almost a third of my life living, working, or travelling in Asia I see myself as a citizen of the region. Living in Singapore over the past seven years has provided an opportunity to reflect on this life beyond borders from a new vantage point, a culturally diverse and globalised space on the margin of the Asian continent. From here there is an excellent view of the south, through Indonesia and Melanesia, and on to my own continent. It also enabled easier access to the ‘Old World’ and some of my own ancient heritage.

Structure

The selection is divided into three sections

Childhood and Beyond

Youthful Years

Recent Years

Childhood and Beyond

While 2002 is many years beyond my childhood, I felt this was an important place to start. It is a story told about children in immigration detention. Although I’ve written about them I hope their voices emerge from my writing. 

I hadn’t expected to meet them but the very experience of the meeting was life-changing. Until then, although I was morally opposed to keeping children in detention, the full impact of such an immoral practice had not yet registered.

This encounter led me to see the sharp contrasts between their lives and the life I led at similar ages. So, despite the temporal complexity leading off with this story might impose, it was essential to begin at this place.

Iniquity Shall Abound.

Seventy Years On

The Bay of Debris

Unravelling Crossie’s Past

Lost

Youthful Years

While 2002 is many years beyond my childhood, I felt this was an important place to start. It is a story told about children in immigration detention. Although I’ve written about them I hope their voices emerge from my writing.  I hadn’t expected to meet them but the very experience of the meeting was life-changing.

A Prelude to War

We Don’t Want War

Darkest Before the Dawn

Recent Years

My last book of short stories Seen and Unseen: a century of stories from Asia and the Pacific captured much of my life from the late 1960s up until 2014.  This group of stories brings my work up to the present. If the reader would like a quick overview of this work, I’ve linked to it at the end of post

Malaysia: Can You Help Me?

Australia: A Sergeant’s Progress

Ancient Belonging Places

Memories of Fires Past

A Morning by a River.

A Departure for Timor L’Este

A New Era

A Journey to Jakarta Dois

Singapore: Going Down

Garam Masala

Beyond the Geomorphic

Indonesia: Tarzan in Tights

What others have said about this work

I came away from my reading of your ms recognising a significant tour de force. The essay collection works as a memoir and is a valuable addition to 1960s radicals’ accounts of their lives. It is clearly the work of a geographer mixed with anthropologist and underscored with acute political and geopolitical awareness. And it is profoundly humane and spiritual. You are able to interact deeply with people at the point where they are dealing with the big questions/mysteries of life and death and their meanings. What links all is common humanity, and the differences are in their handling of the mysteries. You as writer/observer demonstrate the ability to listen, observe, and seek to understand and not judge. I was moved by the book and its emotional power. And it does demonstrate that while there are political and national borders, there is much that otherwise links people, and in these linkages the opportunity to learn. Overall Russell, a profound, worthwhile, spiritual, philosophical, and wise book. Congratulations.

Dr. Rowan Cahill
Honorary Fellow
Faculty of the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities
University of Wollongong, NSW
Co-author ‘Radical Sydney’
http://www.newsouthbooks.com.au/books/radical-sydney_places-portraits-and-unruly-episodes/
Blog:
http://radicalsydney.blogspot.com
Selected Works:
http://works.bepress.com/rowan_cahill

 

I’d describe it as a hybrid memoir/short story anthology that prioritises themes over time sequence and location. The typical themes are connected with environment, social justice, spirituality, and anti-war sentiment. To give the pieces cohesion, you’ve used motifs (e.g. durian/cumin/tuff in the Singapore section) and characters — some apparently real, some perhaps fictitious, and others perhaps where you have swapped places with a fictional character. I think this arrangement has worked very well; nowhere did I find myself disoriented. In fact, the work builds up into layers to give a collage of the author. Maybe the term ‘collage memoir’ nails it?
 
Stuart Campbell, author formerly Professor of Linguistics and a university Pro Vice Chancellor UWS
Stuart Campbell’s novels can be found here

 

Seen and Unseen

As promised, here is a short overview of my first book

 

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