YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

April 12, 2015

Christos Tsiolkas, the postmodern Balzac?

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 7:46 pm
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Christos Tsiolkas in Guardian interview

Christos Tsiolkas in Guardian interview

The Slap is a novel by Chris Tsiolkas, 2010, and was the winner of The Commonwealth Writers’ Prize.
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christos_Tsiolkas)

Christos Tsiolkas (b. 1965), author of the award-winning novel The Slap and a consultant/writer for the Americanized mini- series on NBC is gay and locates himself somewhere on the Left, though one might guess, since his novel’s characters are either bureaucrats or other professionals like himself, that his work, both in Australia and in the (hated) America is intended for disappointed hard Leftists: their politics now indistinguishable from welfare statism. He even names one of his (gay) minor characters “Lenin.”

This blog is about the postmodern novel (“there is no truth”) written by a non-working class person (but impersonating persons of the working class), who is given to nihilism, ribaldry, and finally, acceptance of an adulterated status quo. By that I mean that though many of his characters are working class, they have failed to make the promised revolution predicted by Marx and Lenin, though the author does not share Marx’s enthusiasm for modernity (https://clarespark.com/2014/06/07/marx-vs-lenin/). I suspect he has been influenced by critical theory that surely dominates the U. of Melbourne, where he received his Arts education.

Rather, the Tsiolkas crew is ruled by their passions, and has yielded to secularism, consumerism, sex, pop culture, drugs, and despair. One wonders just how depressed he is, and how disappointed he is in the social democratic modern world. He seems more comfortable with his deceased Greek peasant grandparents in this interview given to The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2010/jul/10/christos-tsiolkas-melbourne-greece.

Which is not say that Tsiolkas has not written a compelling book that held my attention throughout its 482 pages, for he dealt with all the issues raised by the 1970s counter-culture, finally settling for multiculturalism and the underdogs (including an Aboriginal convert to Islam, the model good father). His characters range from Greek émigré grandparents to three-year-old Hugo, the undisciplined, still breast-fed child who is slapped by a Greek hyper-masculine petit-bourgeois, and whose vindictive hippie-ish mother Rosie strives to punish “Harry”: they are all prisoners of their contexts and cannot relate to one another, except with slaps, betrayal (lots of extra-marital sex), or resignation to an intolerable status quo (though the youngsters go through the motions to prepare for higher education).

Rosie and Hugo

Rosie and Hugo

Tsiolkas, the postmodern Balzac (?), does not appear to like any of them, though he may most closely identify with the veterinarian of mixed blood, Aisha (part Indian, part Brit, and in the NBC version, a physician). One television critic complained that in the [toned down and cleaned-up] US version, the characters were not “likeable”. Perhaps that is because the author doesn’t like any of his all too human characters (except for the darker-skinned ones), a typical primitivist trope that Marx would have dismissed as right-wing Romanticism. (compare Aisha in the Australian adaption to the American version: http://www.dcdmedia.co.uk/newsroom/nbc-greenlightsthe-slap-following-format-rights-acquisition-from-dcd-rights/.)

Australian Aisha

Australian Aisha

US Aisha

US Aisha

That this novel was adapted twice for television, was widely read and a prize-winner in the UK Commonwealth should give us pause, for it is a grand, sweeping portrait of nostalgia, decadence, and above all, the impossibility of inter-generation empathy/communication.

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