Craft­ing Kafka

UWA alum­nus Mar­ija Peri­cic has found her iden­tity as a writer in lauded de­but The Lost Pages, she tells Elaine Fry

The West Australian - - BOOKS -

Aus­tralian au­thor Mar­ija Peri­cic’s prodi­gious tal­ent was recog­nised when she won the Vo­gel Lit­er­ary Award with her un­pub­lished man­u­script, unan­i­mously cho­sen by the judges as “clearly the best writ­ten and most lit­er­ate book” and a “very clev­erly struc­tured and an in­trigu­ing con­cept”.

Now pub­lished as her de­but novel, The Lost Pages is set in 1908 Prague, where Peri­cic ex­plores an alternative re­al­ity con­ceived around Franz Kafka’s less fa­mous friend and men­tor, Max Brod, whose fic­tion­alised mem­oirs re­late the dis­as­trous ef­fect Kafka had on Brod’s life and ca­reer as a writer.

Peri­cic was in­trigued by the ef­fect of the jealousy and threat she imag­ines Brod must have felt on recog­nis­ing Kafka’s su­pe­rior tal­ent. Her novel pow­er­fully po­trays Brod’s patho­log­i­cal self-in­flicted tor­ture and dis­in­te­gra­tion of his frag­ile men­tal state.

“When I started writ­ing this novel, I didn’t re­ally know that much about Kafka and Max Brod,” she ad­mits.

“But when I started read­ing about Kafka the man, he ac­tu­ally turned out to be so dif­fer­ent to what I thought.”

She as­sumed Kafka would be “like one of the char­ac­ters in his sto­ries”, de­pres­sive and neu­rotic. “I found out he was very charm­ing and pop­u­lar. Ev­ery­body thought he had this great sense of hu­mour. He was quite a ladies’ man.” The same thing hap­pened when Peri­cic started re­search­ing Max Brod. “I found he had this crip­pling spinal de­for­mity and I imag­ined he must have had to strug­gle with that all his life. There was this re­ver­sal be­tween the two men from what I thought the gen­eral im­age of them was like.”

Peri­cic at­tributes her gift for sto­ry­telling to her love for books. “I have al­ways been a reader,” she says. “I read vo­ra­ciously. I never stud­ied writ­ing for­mally but just al­ways loved read­ing so much. I feel that if I could not read, my life would be over. Read­ing is such a plea­sure to me. Just ex­pe­ri­enc­ing all those dif­fer­ent worlds, all those dif­fer­ent lives, en­riches one’s life so much.”

When it came to writ­ing her own book, she says she at first was scared. But her fears were quickly al­layed. “No one had told me it was so much fun to write a novel,” she says. “It is like read­ing but more in­tense and much more en­joy­able. I am so ex­cited to be start­ing on an­other novel now.”

Liv­ing and work­ing in Melbourne but hav­ing grown up in Quinns Rocks and grad­u­at­ing from the Univer­sity of WA, Peri­cic loves Perth and re­turns here ev­ery Christ­mas.

‘I now feel like I have per­mis­sion to think of my­self as a writer.’

The Lost Pages is pub­lished by Allen & Un­win ($30).

Mar­ija Peri­cic’s novel won the Vo­gel Lit­er­ary Award.

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