Julia Leigh is the award-winning author of The Hunter and Disquiet and the director of Sleeping Beauty. Named by The Observer as one of the twenty-one novelists to watch in the 21st century, Leigh writes beautifully sparse books that explore the complexities of human interactions with each other and with nature.
Leigh returns to The Bookworm this Sunday at 7:30pm to talk about her latest novel, Disquiet and her other work. Check here
for more information about the event and ticketing.
In honor of the event, we revisit an interview Leigh did with The Beijinger on her debut novel The Hunter during her time at BLF 2011:
I’m from Sydney, although I did visit Tasmania in order to do research for the book. Tasmania is an island of approx 68,000 square kilometres and it lies to the south of the Australian mainland. A lot of it is wilderness, and much of the action in The Hunter takes place on the water-logged central plateau, some of which is world heritage listed. It is not a dry landscape: instead, they say of Tasmania that it has “four seasons in one day”.
A man, known as M (he is working under a false name), has been sent by a multinational biotech to retrieve rare and exclusive genetic material which will be put to use in biowarfare. M does not know, does not want to know, how it will be used, which typifies his disinterest in being responsible for anyone or anything other than himself. So, M arrives at the last house at the end of the last road – where a small bluestone cottage will be his base camp. In the house lives a young woman grieving for her missing husband, and her two children – anarchic children who have the run of the house. Basically, we want to know if he will capture the tiger, and if he will soften towards the family.
Once upon a time the tiger did exist, but now it is believed to be extinct. That said, there are still to this day frequent sightings of the animal. So, in Australia, the creature has become iconic, it is fast passing into myth. I wanted M to be hunting an animal that was more than animal, that had a mythic, iconic edge.
I have never hunted. I was interested in hunting as an elemental drama. Hunting gave rise to the earliest human rituals: in a cave in Switzerland they found the bones of cave-bears ceremonially arranged – thigh bones pushed through eye sockets of skulls – and dating the cave, and the bones, it was discovered that the bones had been laid down by pre-homo sapiens. Hunting- the act of killing and knowing that you too will be killed – caused man to lift out of himself, to contemplate for the first time the ‘numinous’, something bigger than his own immediate needs.
I do think an alchemy occurs by spending time ‘out bush’; this is hard to describe. when I go out bush I do feel a change come over me; things are stripped to essentials. It is an almost meditative state.
A key part of the work is about loneliness, or being alone. Who isn’t alone? Sometimes I think it is miracle we can communicate with one another, but this is only on bad days.
By the time M returns to the cottage it is too late. Good intentions mean nothing; action counts. There is an interesting line in a short work by Dostoevsky, The Eternal Husband: “It was not your fault, Pavel Pavllovitch, it was not your fault; you are a monster, so everything about you is bound to be monstrous, even your hopes and your dreams.” You see, monsters too have monster dreams and monster hopes.
For more, check out this interview with ABC Radio National’s The Book Show.