The Slap is a novel by Australian author Christos Tsiolkas. The narrative is presented through the viewpoints of eight individual characters, and focuses on. The Slap book. Read reviews from the world's largest community for readers. At a suburban barbecue, a man slaps a child who is not his llowponquoresmai.gq e. Will Skidelsky: More than any recent work of fiction, The Slap is a novel about the failings of middle-class life, particularly liberalism.
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The slap that I wanted to deliver with that book was to a culture in Australia that had literally made me sick, sick to the stomach. A middle class. llowponquoresmai.gq: The Slap: A Novel (): Christos Tsiolkas: Books. Editorial Reviews. From Booklist. Although this is Australian author Tsiolkas' fourth novel, it is the first to be published in the U.S. With its raw style, liberal use of.
The structure of having multiple voices allowed me to reflect, through the writing, something of what it is like to live in our world now. It kept the writing process interesting, kept me on my toes. It was not dissimilar from the barbecue that is described at the beginning of The Slap. My parents had invited friends and family to a big barbecue.
At one point the four—year—old son of a close friend was playing in the kitchen while my mother was very busy cooking, baking, preparing an astonishing amount of food: The little boy was playing on the floor, opening and shutting cupboards, and my mother kept ordering him to stop.
At one point he opened a cupboard and two or three pots and pans fell to the floor. My mother, harassed, took hold of him and very lightly, softly, patted him on the bum. Now, I want to make sure it is understood that there was no violence in what my mother did. The incident was promptly forgotten and we all continued having a grand day at the barbecue. She is a migrant from Greece, who was raised in that terrible period of Greek history where she experienced both the Nazi Occupation and the horrifying civil war that tore Greece apart after the cessation of World War II.
She grew up in a culture where she was denied education because she was a woman, a culture where she was beaten if she as much as dared look askance at a man.
It felt like a gift, having observed the incident I described above.
I knew I had the beginning of my book, that it would start at a Melbourne barbecue, and that it would involve an adult who slapped a child who was not his own. It is such a simple idea but I knew it would allow me to explore questions of family and honor, questions of cultural shift and cultural change. One of my frustrations with much of Australian literature has been how it still represented a homogenous Anglo—Celtic culture that did not tally with my experience of growing up in a city such as Melbourne.
After World War II, Australia undertook a period of mass industrialization that resulted in a doubling of its population and the coming into the country of hundreds of thousands of migrants initially from southern Europe, and then increasingly from Asia and the Middle East, which profoundly changed the makeup of the population.
I wanted to write a novel that gave voice to this experience. For such reasons and also because of the music! I feel more at home in the United States than I do in Europe. However there are three main differences between the Australian and the American experience I want to outline because I think they are important for understanding the book.
First, we never had a revolution and so our colonial ties to Great Britain have never been severed. It was not until after the end of World War II that non—Western Europeans were allowed entry into the country and the act itself was not officially abolished till Second, having traveled through the United States, the fact that Australia was never a slave colony means that we have subtly different ways of understanding race and racial oppression from the Americans.
African Australians are people who have come from Africa or whose parents were migrants or refugees from Africa, largely over the last two decades. Third, and I think most important, the most vexing and difficult political question for us Australians is the continual dispossession of the Aboriginal people from their land and culture. No other issue more troubles our nation and it is the reason why so many of our great works of art have been attempts to deal with this history. One of the continuing tragedies of our ongoing inability to heal the wounds of racism here in Australia is that too many indigenous youths are destroyed by alcohol and drugs.
Bilal has found, through Islam, a means of transcending the violence of such a past. That too is a provocative choice but I think faithful to an experience, and possibly one Americans can recognize from their own history of racism. The geography of Melbourne and its various neighborhoods plays an important role in this book—in some cases, almost defining the characters and their social status.
Do you view geography as a kind of social destiny?
The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas: review
Melbourne is my city—I know it, understand it, I fall in and out of love with it. I think it is important as a writer to not forget what we have learned as readers. Readers are willing to be introduced to a city or a place as a character, to discover its neighborhoods, geography, sights, and smells through the power of words.
Do I think that geography is social destiny? The Slap is a novel about the middle class and one of the things that defines the new middle class is gentrification.
Melbourne was a very industrial city, its inner neighborhoods were migrant and working—class until only very recently.
I wanted to have characters reflect on the changes in their city, and I hope that through such reflections a reader anywhere in the world can identify with how physical space is as much a marker of memory as is family, as is love and desire.
A reader could potentially find a sly commentary in there. Do you think these characters would be more psychologically evolved or even happier if they were more directly engaged with bigger issues? The novel was written at a time when Australian culture was the richest it has ever been, where we were the wealthiest we had ever been.
Concurrent with the rise of such wealth was a growing sense of entitlement. Now I hear that word everywhere. I probably would question how true the old myths were, but undoubtedly I believe that we have grown more selfish in our culture.
I am a man who wants to think of political questions. I am also very aware of the possibilities and opportunities that I have, that come from the struggles of feminists, civil rights activists, from many committed individuals in history who suffered to allow me to live as an openly gay man. I feel I want, in my life, to honor that history. I am often shamed by how I fall short of that goal.
I think the sense of entitlement that so many people now have is corrosive. It does create selfish communities, selfish marriages, selfish families.
I am also equally wary of a self—righteousness that I find in many of my peers, and I fear that I see it too often in myself. It was very important in writing the book that I was honest about the lies we tell ourselves, the many small and big compromises we make in order to not be challenged or to not have our comfort disturbed.
The Slap, a novel that is bringing out the worst in the middle class
I fear that our present culture is not a brave one but I wanted to be honest about my own shortcoming as a man. I have felt shame, I have betrayed people I love, I have hurt people out of spite and selfishness. I wanted to be honest about my generation and the only way I found I could do that was to be as honest a writer as I could.
My own favorite character in the book is the old man Manolis. But he does not have that sense of entitlement that I see in so much of my generation; he does not have that self—righteousness. He knows there is a bigger world out there than himself.
I think many of us have forgotten that. Those kinds of books make me want to drown myself in whiskey just to rid myself of the stench of both entitlement and righteousness. Those books stink of the worst of the contemporary middle class. An interesting element of your narrative structure is that these very disparate and sometimes at—odds characters tend to view one another very similarly. Are you suggesting that there are certain universal truths about people?
I understand this thinking. Of course I do, this is why I have chosen the structure that I have in the novel, to have the narrative be taken up by eight different characters, to have the reader constantly have to shift their identification, to have to question their conclusions. But given all that, yes, I do believe in the reality of universal truth, that there are experiences that can be understood across time and space.
The films I love, the books I adore, the paintings and music that mean the most to me, they all prove this. I am not being deliberately cryptic here. I will speak now as a reader rather than as a writer. I know that the best books, the books I love most or unsettle me, upset me, disturb me the most, touch something of the universal even when the particulars of narrative, characters, place, and time have nothing to do ostensibly with the geography and biography of my own life.
For readers and writers to reject the universal is to betray the very possibility of fiction. How, as a writer, do you manage to make a difficult and flawed character sympathetic? If I assumed that readers were only interested in characters that were sympathetic, then I might as well give up writing. Rosie represents the worst of the self—obsession, the entitlement and self—righteousness I associate with my own generation.
But I think it is that I see those traits in myself that allow me to try and imagine her world, her thinking, her confusion, her determination. I think that if a writer is faithful to an experience, then that is one way that you can allow a reader to enter the consciousness of even the most difficult of characters. When it comes to Rosie, I have been surprised at how visceral the hate directed toward her can be.
It has been one of the things that have most disturbed me over the last twenty years, how excoriating people can be about mothers, and how often other parents can be the worst culprits. I wonder if the violent responses regarding Rosie are not telling of our own confusions and fears about parenthood, about how we are raising our children, our nieces and nephews. Her voice was essential in this book.
I was resisting writing in her voice because she was exactly the kind of person I derided, one of those people I cursed and dismissed. So when I came to writing in her voice I had to do what I did with all the characters, I had to find an element of my own experience that could serve as a guide.
That was my way in because it is also one of the things I most detest about myself: I should say that it was a way in, not an endpoint. That aspect of Rosie is something I share, but in other ways she is such a very different character from me. I would hate to think people thought that the characters are just eight different personas of the writer. Also, and very importantly, Rosie loves Hugo. As a plot device, does desire always have to be destructive?
But, of course, it is often more interesting and more dangerous when it is. I don't mean to conjure up the familiar British stereotypes. Set in the suburbs, it centres on a close-knit, affluent community made up of predominantly second-generation Greek Australians, but also including white Australians, descendants of Aborigines and ethnic Indians.
Within this complex milieu, a number of credos uneasily co-exist. There's the socially conservative, macho culture of the Greek characters, with its emphasis on family and hierarchy.
Here, adult males embody a sort of community-sanctioned authority, which gives them licence, among other privileges, to take responsibility for disciplining other people's children. Yet this sense of solidarity carries with it less attractive traits: a degree of insularity, sexism and racism.
The Greeks in the novel think nothing of referring to non-whites as "wogs" and use pousti Greek slang for homosexual as a term of abuse. They disapprove of the fact that Hector, the host of the barbecue, has an Indian wife. This traditionalist outlook rubs up against two other mentalities, which are themselves in collision. One is the ethos of consumerism, with its emphasis on material comfort and hedonism particularly the sexual variety.
The embodiment of this philosophy is Hector's cousin, Harry, a successful businessman and the dispenser of the titular slap. Harry is a bigoted, extraordinarily unattractive figure for whom women are sexual objects his preferred term for them is "whores" and who cares about little besides filling his home with plasma-screen TVs. He pithily sums up his worldview in the following harangue to Hector, who has just expressed some mild anxieties about global warming: "Jesus fucking Christ, cuz, you think too much… don't think about all that shit, global warming and terrorism and the war.
Its chief representatives are the parents of the child whom Harry slaps, Gary and Rosie. They espouse a philosophy whose main tenets are a belief in "nature" and the sanctity of childhood.
They implement these beliefs by letting their son, Hugo, run wild, so that, at four years old, he is still breast-feeding and generally behaves like a brat. For a British reader, the most striking thing about the society depicted in The Slap is how insubstantial this third, liberal plank is. Gary and Rosie are cartoon figures whose convictions are shown to be wholly superficial.
Rosie's ideals are a defensive cover for her general insecurity and guilt about her sluttish past. Gary, her husband, is an alcoholic failed artist whose true motivation for hating the bourgeoisie is jealousy.
Rosie and Gary are as bigoted as everyone else.
The Slap Reader’s Guide
By making them his mouthpieces for liberalism, Tsioklas appears to be suggesting that progressive convictions are rare in contemporary Australia; in so far as they exist at all, they are a cloak for other impulses. Unsurprisingly, given the racism and misogyny in which so many of its characters indulge, The Slap has proved a divisive book. While some have proclaimed it a hard-hitting chronicle of our times "Neighbours as written by Philip Roth," as one reviewer put it , others have objected to its crude vision of life.Tsolkias does give you a certain insight into the child's mother's upbringing.
They not only do things we probably don' A man at a weekend barbecue slaps someone else's child in anger, and the act reverberates through his circle of friends and family.
But when the book moves on it moves into the lives of not only the main group of friends which the first section of the book is based around, but also into the lives of the lesser characters. It was not dissimilar from the barbecue that is described at the beginning of The Slap.
By making them his mouthpieces for liberalism, Tsioklas appears to be suggesting that progressive convictions are rare in contemporary Australia; in so far as they exist at all, they are a cloak for other impulses.