A review of A S Patric’s Black Rock White City by gr‘s editorial assistant Angus Dalton from our May issue. We ran a fascinating Q&A with the author in our April issue – he’s a brilliant Australian talent and a writer to watch.
Black Rock White City – A S Patric
Jovan is a hospital cleaner. A refugee from the Bosnian War. A former literature professor and poet now forced into overalls each day. He’s a father rendered childless and a husband distanced from his wife, Suzana, by the unfathomable horrors they experienced together in their home town of Sarajevo.
Bizarre and cryptic graffiti begins to bloom in the Melbourne hospital where he works. It starts on the walls, spreads into bathroom cubicles and floors and is etched onto patient’s bodies. What initially starts as a source of gossip and intrigue becomes increasingly threatening as Jovan realises the unidentified graffiti artist is trying to communicate with him.
Jovan and his wife, Suzana, are both writers stripped of confidence and articulation. Their lives in suburban Melbourne are frustratingly mundane compared to their work as intuitive academics in Sarajevo before they were forced to flee. Snippets of Jovan’s poetry work their way into the story in shining and lyrical little passages, although these ebb away as Jovan becomes increasingly tormented and isolated. He clings proudly to his strong Serbian accent, even though he knows he is judged for it and considered a dumb immigrant.
This is a superbly executed work of experimental literature that explores the effects of a war overlooked by most Australians and the story of two displaced souls in suburban Melbourne. Lyrical yet gritty, raw and grounded, this is a fiercely and brilliantly written debut.
5 stars – Transit Lounge – $29.95
Reviewed by Angus Dalton