Foreign Soil

By Maxine Beneba Clarke Hachette


Maxine Beneba Clarke

Judges' report


Maxine Beneba Clarke is a performance poet, acutely aware of the accents, idioms and cadences of the spoken word, and her gift with voices – their origins, their meanings, their struggles and triumphs with alien English – is at the heart of this collection of stories. All ten stories deal with displacement in some form, and some of that displacement has been violent: there are stories of racial conflict in Brixton, of asylum seekers in flight from the Tamil Tigers, of psychological and physical violence between a naïve white-Australian wife in a strange land and her twice-displaced African husband.

Although these are stories about inequalities of power in the intersections of class and race, Beneba Clarke also uses narrative voices and the effects of dialogue to show characters attempting to create and assert a coherent self through the power of speech. Her work is profoundly political, but it is also more than that.

Further reading


Reviews:

‘Nourished by Clarke’s empathetic imagination, her narratives create the lived experience of suffering and despair, resilience and hope, for the powerless, the discarded, the socially adrift… As well as being ideologically complex, the stories also resist easy moral judgements; Clarke encourages us to listen to the voices of those who are typically silenced.’ – Susan Midalia, Australian Book Review

‘Clarke wants us to be uncomfortable, to lose our bearings; she wants us to squirm. She wants us to have to adjust our expectations and learn the different languages in which her characters speak. She wants us to feel different and out of our depth. And she wants us, above all, to learn how to listen.’ – Fiona Wright, Sydney Review of Books

‘These are tales of sheer storytelling prowess, and a deeply ambivalent take on hope and despair in the modern world.’ – Martin Shaw, Readings

‘Clarke’s startlingly emotive collection encompasses the scope of human experience: betrayal, love, foolishness, hope, helplessness and anger at “the way things are”.’ – Lou Heinrich, Newtown Review of Books

‘Clarke’s rhythmic prose…is a treat for the eyes and the ears.’ – Emily Laidlaw, Killings

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