‘Ax­iomatic’ by Maria Tu­markin

The Monthly (Australia) - - THE ALLURING WORLD OF LIANE MORIARTY -

No­table men­tions

One Hun­dred Years of Dirt by Rick Mor­ton

Col­lected Short Fic­tion by Ger­ald Mur­nane

Com­mon Peo­ple by Tony Birch

Lebs by Michael Mo­hammed Ah­mad In Ax­iomatic, Maria Tu­markin, au­thor of Trau­mas­capes, Courage and Other­land, once again picks a path through hu­mankind’s rough­est of ter­rains, us­ing in­stinct as her com­pass. She has switched her fo­cus to a new ex­is­ten­tial cri­sis: the past as a ghost of the present.

Tu­markin feels like a trust­wor­thy guide through sui­cide, grief and sex­ual trauma; she’s an hon­orary artis­tic out­reach as­so­ciate at the ARC Cen­tre for the His­tory of Emo­tions, after all. In­stead of in­ter­view­ing ex­perts and fall­ing into aca­demic anal­y­sis, she seeks out those suf­fer­ing on the front­line and falls into step.

In lieu of chap­ters there are five ax­ioms: “Time heals all wounds”; “His­tory re­peats it­self”; “Give me a child be­fore the age of seven and I’ll give you the woman”; “Those who for­get the past are con­demned to re–––––” and “You can’t en­ter the same river twice”. Tu­markin weaves in mytho­log­i­cal and his­tor­i­cal

con­text, vis­its mu­se­ums, tags along on out­ings, jots down con­ver­sa­tions on trams, and ex­ca­vates her own thoughts.

Fre­quently, she picks at the struc­tures of mod­ern so­ci­ety. Take what she calls the “casse­role pe­riod” – a sanc­tioned term of mourn­ing that drops off abruptly. Then there are the in­vis­i­ble bound­ary lines of gar­den-va­ri­ety al­tru­ists, as ex­plained to her by a com­mu­nity lawyer:

“Vanda says when we pick peo­ple up we are re­spon­si­ble for what we’re do­ing and it is our re­spon­si­bil­ity to go all the way.

“Says the fox in The Lit­tle Prince by An­toine de Saint-Ex­upéry: ‘Peo­ple have

for­got­ten this truth but you mustn’t for­get it. You be­come re­spon­si­ble for­ever for what you’ve tamed.’

“Does it mean a lit­tle help is of­ten worse than no help? We’re talk­ing and I am get­ting a pulling feel­ing in my stom­ach. I get it when some­thing im­por­tant is hap­pen­ing and it’s easy to miss.”

Ax­iomatic posits that our his­to­ries are not so an­cient. Per­sonal tragedies in­ter­twine with strands of DNA. Grief am­bushes decades later, or keeps ex­pand­ing and re­tract­ing in the lungs. This book could be the per­fect gift for those who in­sist “the past is in the past”.

Jenny Valen­tish

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