Thursday, August 28, 2008

Grumpy old men

Now here’s proof that as long as my memory might be, I don’t know everything. The British author Will Self, who can sometimes be seen on one of my favourite telly programs, Grumpy Old Men, has set his latest novel (named after a body part) partially in Australia. Here’s the bit I didn’t know, courtesy of an interview reproduced on the ABC’s Articulate website. Self says ‘I worked for the Northern Territory’s government briefly in my early 20s and I always thought “I’m going to do something with this material.” The Australian Aboriginal culture just leaves you staggering. They were the first people out of Africa 30,000 years before us and walked round the coast to Australia before we had even got out of the trees to go round the other way [he does have a colourful turn of phrase!]. They are the most political, Byzantine people imaginable. The complexity of their politics is astonishing….’ Self found out the hard way just how Byzantine: ‘I got in terrible trouble over How The Dead Live, or at least a situation I took seriously. I named one of these Aboriginal wizards in the book and ran it past a very old friend who’s lived in the Northern Territory for decades. He said no, you can’t do this, it’s got back to him. We had to pulp an edition in Australia and I had to pay compensation.’ I bet that made a few more old men than Mr Self grumpy!

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