Books & Literature

Book Review: Border Crossings, edited by Diana Glenn and Graham Tulloch

Essays on migration & people movement, focussing on increased global interest in an interdisciplinary exchange across a range of intellectual & artistic spheres.

In their introduction to this Wakefield Press publication, editors Diana Glenn and Graham Tulloch explain that while migration and people movement is well explored in regard to the idea of border crossing, there has also recently been increased global interest in “research activity and interdisciplinary exchange across social and intellectual, literary and artistic spheres”.

The 22 essays which make up the Border Crossings collection offer an exploration of the phenomenon from a range of these diverse perspectives. Each author offers fresh insight into the breaking of boundaries and invites the reader to “explore the familiar in unfamiliar ways”. Almost all of the pieces are published here for the first time.

Tully Barnett, in her chapter The human trace in Google books, examines a project that polarised opinion—Google’s proposal to digitise every book ever published. To some, the company has clearly crossed a line. Barnett “considers potholes in the process of digitisation” and explores Google’s view that it is “granting democratic access to the world’s knowledge” and not merely engaging in an attempt to monetise the works of others.

In “You are entering no man’s land”: Migrant narrative and the second person form in creative writing, Mary Lynn Mather experiments with point of view to “convey the uneasiness that is evoked by displacement”. The second-person point of view can sometimes be challenging for the reader, but in this case it feels like the perfect choice as it both embraces and creates distance. The result is particularly effective, quickly drawing the reader into the perspective of a migrant writer (born in South Africa, now residing in Australia) as she grapples with the creation of a fictional character who inhabits the “in-between space” that bridges both countries.

Gay Lynch discusses the ways in which Australian authors Anna Funder (All That I Am and Stasiland) and David Sornig (Spiel) “cross Berlin borders” in the research and writing of their novels. Both writers have personal connections to the city, and Lynch unpicks the ways in which their contemporary and historical family experiences influence their creative works. It’s a fascinating dissection that paints Berlin as a “place where borders have shifted, where tunnels run beneath your feet, where remnants of a wall remain, where plastic facades cover stalled renovation projects, where traumatic transit places have been re-located”. The chapter also highlights the fluidity of genre in each of Funder and Sornig’s books, and how this technique is used to evoke the dangerous, uncertain futures of the protagonists as the characters “slip from one genre to another to carry their message”.

The diversity of subject matter in this collection of writings makes for satisfying reading. There’s a lot to absorb. The chapters are organised under eight sub-headings representing ways of seeing and interpreting the crossing of borders, for example, ‘Crossing between past and present’, ‘Western views across the border into another world’ and ‘Crossovers between real life, art and fiction’. End notes provide an excellent starting point for further reading, and there are also brief notes on each the contributors.

Border Crossings is a surprising and enlightening journey through new territories in contexts far beyond the geographical.

Reviewed by Jo Vabolis

Rating out of 10: 8

Released by: Wakefield Press
Release Date: December 2016
RRP: $39.95

The top image is a photograph of “Dusasa I” by Ghanian artist, El Anatsui, and is not associated with this book.

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