Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Expatriates and 'Questions of Travel'

from w
I've always been fascinated by the idea of expatriates living out their lives in foreign places. Somerset Maughan, 'The Moon and Sixpence' kind of story, Michener - 'Tales of the South Pacific' Louis Becke - my father's favourite, R.L. Stevenson, Naipaul... the list goes on and on. This week I'm reading 'Questions of travel' by Michelle de Kretser where she details the lives of two people, an Australian woman self-centred, chaotic, living in Europe and a Sri Lankan man who eventually comes to Australia on a plane but as a refugee. However they don't even talk to one another until about page 440! I haven't finished it yet but it's intriguing even if a burden to read at times.

Last week I came across an expat elderly man living in a South Pacific town, - well he's seventy they say - who lives in a tiny wooden shell of a house, listens to the ABC radio at 3 a.m. and has a barking dog for a companion. What is his story I wondered, but the neighbours don't go near him because of the drinking. I wanted to send him a plate of fine food but didn't. A notice on the corner of his house advertises himself as a kind of architect, so why did he end up like this?
And now that I've finished the book and the ending is - well, quite unexpected. I wonder if the writer knew from the beginning how it would all end up.  

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