I was looking for a cover of a novel by an Australian Catholic for the banner of a new FB group page THE AUSTRALIAN CATHOLIC WRITERS’ FORUM (to be developed). I had a few of Christopher Koch’s novels on hand and chose Highways to a War, the 1996 Miles Franklin Award winner. I then looked around for some information about the now (almost) forgotten Christopher Koch and found this inspiring article by Karl Schmude.
Christopher Koch: A novelist for an age with no answers
The Catholic imagination of Christopher Koch, the Australian novelist most remembered for The Year of Living Dangerously (1978), was shaped by two intense experiences.
The first was his childhood immersion in the popular Catholic culture in Australia in the first half of the 20th century. Abounding in hints of supernatural mystery and memory, it showed the power of earthly symbols and cultural ritual to evoke timeless realities.
The other was his upbringing in Tasmania, the Alaska of Australia, an island state nearer to Antarctica than the northern Australian mainland. This sense of remoteness sharpened his appreciation of the cultural centre. It embraced not only the traditions of his modern Australian homeland but also the deeper Christian heritage of historical Europe.
Both these experiences, religious and cultural, supplied the background to his eight novels. His Catholic insights enlivened his depiction of human character, especially the dualities of nature and identity that comprise a flawed being who was yet made in the image of God and destined for eternal life. His Tasmanian childhood, meanwhile, nurtured a sense of cultural isolation and the perspective of separation. Tasmania was for Koch a metaphor for Australia – its people, as he wrote, “marooned in the southern hemisphere”. Yet this experience held a wider meaning in a Western culture that was itself religiously marooned, embroiled as it became in his lifetime in uprooting its religious and cultural traditions.
I have heard complaints that not enough Catholic writers are producing novels or books dealing with religious and moral issues . It used not to be like that. My reply is that some of us who toil away writing novels and non-fiction works receive little support from those in a position to provide encouragement and promotion. I acknowledge that News Weekly and AD2000 reviewed my books, as did the Annals. So it is with delight and congratulations that I provide a link to Brisbane’s Catholic Leader who reviewed a new novel by a Catholic writer.
Canberra author uses fiction to evangelise Church’s teaching on marriage
THERE was a time Catholic fiction novels ruled library shelves, and Canberra author Veronica Smallhorn believes it’s time for a renaissance.
The mum of three has released her first novel, A Channel of Your Peace, which tells the story of a young woman whose life turns upside down when her fiancé of five years confesses to having an affair with a co-worker.
Chilton Williamson Jr writes about two of Grahame Greene’s most powerful titles in the genre of the Catholic novel
The novelist Graham Greene belonged to a grand era in English Catholicism that began with Newman and ended around 1960. According to the author, his many books fall into two general categories: those works of fiction he described as “entertainments,” and the others he called simply “novels.” The latter reflect the degree to which Greene—a convert and later a self-described “Catholic agnostic” with a disordered private life—was haunted by the Faith he neither could nor wished to abandon, while persisting in his idiosyncratic understanding of it.
This, of course, is the intellectual and spiritual condition of many modern Catholics. No one, however, has explored that condition more consistently, poignantly, and dramatically than Greene did. His friend and admirer Evelyn Waugh, in a lengthy review essay of The Heart of the Matter, observed that only a Catholic could have written the book, and only a Catholic could understand it. Greene chose aptly when he took for his epigraph several lines from Charles Péguy: “Le pécheur est au coeur même de chrétienté… Nul n’est aussi compétent que le pécheur en matière de chrétienté. Nul, si c’est le saint.” (“The sinner is at the heart of Christianity… No one is as competent as the sinner in matters concerning Christianity. No one, unless it is the saint.”)