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A World of My Own

29 Dec

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This book, A World of My Own: Book One – A Short History of the First 23 Years of My Life, is an autobiography. It covers, as the title suggests the first 23 years of my life. A second book might cover the next 23 years of my life. And a third, the following 23 years. Who knows.

Given that my childhood was somewhat devoid of world-changing events, at least none that I was responsible for, the majority of the first book covers the four years I spent at Art School between 1966 and 1969.

For those who were there, and remember, or for those who were not there, but have read or heard about that era, the late 1960s was a time of profound social change. It was the time of the Beatles; the Vietnam War; the Cold War; the policy of Mutually Assured Destruction; the Hippies; the slow demise of the Liberal Party following the resignation of Robert Menzies; the  1968 student uprisings in Paris and other cities. The list goes on.

This book is a personal reflection upon my experience of and participation in the events of those times. It consists of 55 Fragments of an unpublished story about Rinaldo (representing myself), originally written in 2002, and each Fragment is connected and given further explanation by a first-person narrative.

The Fragments of Rinaldo’s story are, as explained in the book, “a bit like the paintings I did, and like the histories that people write. What we depict in paintings, or in history books, may reflect reality, but they also reflect what we imagine that reality to have been from a distance, and filtered by our imagination.”

Here is an edited sample:


Foreward to Book One

“This book is about history. It is about the human experience and its place in history. It is about all of those things that we as human beings experience during our short allocation of historical time—art, music, literature, science, politics, love, war, sex, happiness, sadness, wonderment, companionship, loneliness. It is also about the questions of where, why, how, and what. Where do we come from? Why are we here? How should we live? What is there in the future?

Some people seem to have little concept of their place in history. They just exist. Their world is dominated by the immediate experience of their five physical senses and limited by the three physical dimensions in which they live. They have no curiosity about history. No compelling questions about their place in the present. No vision for the future.

This book, this story, goes beyond an account of mere existence; beyond what can be felt through the five physical senses and the three physical dimensions. This story places human experience—my experience as a human being—into the realm of the sixth sense and the fourth dimension; into the realm of imagination and intuition; into the broader dimension of past, present and future.

Yes. This book is about history. But then, history is much more than you thought it might be.”


Extracts from Book One, Part One

Links in the Chain of Life

“How should i start this story? Perhaps with an account of things I have mainly forgotten. A memoir of people and events I mostly do not remember. Yet I must begin with these people and events because they form the foundation of what comes after that. And to understand what came later, you need to understand what came before.

—–‘I wear the chain I forged in life,’ lamented Jacob Marley’s ghost when he came to see Ebenezer Scrooge on Christmas Eve. ‘I made it link by link, and yard by yard. I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.’

Well, Charles Dickens may have been right. We may have no immortal control over the atoms of our existence. Nor over where they came from, and where they will go. Yet, despite this certain lack of control over things, briefly they come together to create the person we are, and, having been created, we alone can then choose to do good; or evil; or nothing at all.

It is what we do, or do not do, that influences others and is passed on to future generations, just as it is what others have done that has influenced us in our lives. And sometimes, despite what we or others endeavor to do, there seems to be some element of chance—an element of fortune. Or perhaps, of misfortune.”


Extracts from Book One, Part Two

Fragments of Life as an Art Student

February 1966

Fragment 1

The Fog in the Bog


An idea is a beginning point and no more. If you contemplate it, it becomes something else. – Pablo Picasso 1935


In the beginning there was a mist that swept gently across a primordial bog. There were strange and unidentified characters that merged and emerged within these mists of time. Some were dressed in weird and unusual clothing. Some were naked.

The whole scene was muted, and muddy, and if you were watching from somewhere in the distance you might have heard the voice of Rinaldo quietly drifting with the fog. The voice spoke in rhyme, and the words that were spoken became visible. They hung suspended for a few moments before floating off through the mist.

‘At the beginning of time the earth was covered in slime and rivers and bogs were hidden by fogs…’

The sound of the voice dissipated and the fog continued to sweep across the bog. More unidentified characters merged and emerged within the haze of time.

And the murky mist continued to swirl.


—–It was the beginning of February 1966. There was a murky swirling mist in the studio of the art school in the Melbourne suburb of Prahran.

From the moment that eighteen-year-old Rinaldo first stepped into that studio, you could tell his impression was that it was a place in which both art and life were being created. In fact, his art and his life would be created in that art school.

But on the first day, with a combination of excitement and apprehension filling his heart, Rinaldo contemplated the new environment and found his attention drawn to the diverse objects within the studio. Paint brushes. Easels. Drawings pinned to walls. A bowl of fruit awaiting a still life. Paint boxes of artists. A model’s gown thrown over a chair. All of these things added to the atmosphere and seemed to have creative potential for Rinaldo.

It was a couple of days into the term when I first saw Rinaldo. He was seated before an easel and was looking at a jar of turpentine. He had just washed his brushes and the colour of the murky mixture reminded him of a fog swirling across some mysterious bog. Perhaps like the graveyard scene in Hamlet.

But then something distracted him. He could see people reflected in the jar and moving silently about the studio.  They seemed to emerge from the mists of time and were in various states of exotic dress or undress. But when he looked up they were no longer there and he saw only a room full of new and unknown art students sitting on stools or standing before their easels and concentrating upon their work.

He smiled at the illusion that he had momentarily believed in, and then took a piece of paper and pen. He wrote a few lines that the mixture had inspired, then turned back to his canvas.

Nearby, a Model sat on a rostrum. She was in the pose of William Bougeaureau’s Seated Nude. Bougeaureau did many paintings with that title, but you only have to imagine a nude model seated on a rostrum to get the picture. In fact you only had to imagine to see anything in this art school. But Rinaldo was not painting the Model and had never heard of Bougeaureau at that time. No, he was painting a still life that he had started that morning. In fact, the Model was in a life drawing class in the next studio and could only be seen through a gap where the door stood ajar.

I watched him from where I sat, and each time I looked his picture seemed to change. Of course it did, he was working on it, but that’s not what I mean. Look out the window and see how things changes. Leaves and branches move minutely in the breeze. Flower buds open and petals fall. Each time you look something has changed. History is simply a record of changes. But no history is ever finished. Rinaldo’s painting was like that. And each time I thought it was finished, there was more to be done.

Perhaps that’s because he was never satisfied. He was always thinking that things could be done better. Or perhaps he simply lacked the confidence to take that final step and proclaim the creation completed.

‘I am progressing very slowly,’ Cézanne had once written to his friend Emile Bernard, ‘for nature reveals herself to me in very complex forms; and the progress that is needed is incessant.’

But that was in 1904 and Cézanne was 65 at the time.

Sixty-two years later the painting teacher had urged, ‘Learn from Cézanne. See nature through the cylinder, the sphere and the cone.’

Of course he was quoting Cézanne completely out of context and Cézanne would have turned in his grave.

 Bouguereau, Seated Nude 1884.jpg

William Bougeaureau, Seated Nude, 1884

 What was his name? That teacher? There was Peter Booth. And Robin Wallace-Crabbe, the brother of Chris, the poet. And James Doolin, an American who had just arrived from New York. They all taught painting and drawing at Prahran that year. I modelled for all of their classes at some time. But this one’s name was King. I forget his first name. Anyway, we all just called him King. Mister King.

‘Learn from Cézanne,’ King had proclaimed as he turned everything into geometry. So, for a while Rinaldo did that but then he wondered what else Cézanne had had to say. So he went to the art school library and found out.

‘Time and reflection,’ Cézanne had also said, ‘modify little by little our vision, and at last comprehension comes to us.’

Time and reflection. Rinaldo reflected upon what he was doing. That was easy because he was naturally shy and sensitive, and spent much time in quiet reflection upon what happened around him and tried to express his reactions to the world in whatever creative ways he could find. He loved all the arts. When he wasn’t painting or drawing he was reading, or writing, or playing music.

But I didn’t know these things on that first day. I just watched. He stopped painting and began writing again and somehow I thought I heard his voice. It drifted through the maze of easels and canvases and softly said,

‘A man and woman God did create, with clear instructions to procreate. A bird was sent, a peaceful dove, to teach them that all they need is love.’

Then I thought I heard echoing voices coming back. Something like the voices of those angelic choirs that must once have echoed through the heights of Gothic cathedrals.  It puzzled me at first, hearing these voices, hearing Rinaldo’s voice, but then an idea came to mind. It was the concept of being on the same wavelength as another person. The notion of being in harmony with their thoughts.

Could this actually happen? Could I really hear his thoughts as clearly as if they were spoken words? Surely it was impossible. But even if it was impossible, it happened, and I could see or hear or feel his thoughts as they drifted around the studio collecting anything else that might be united with them, until eventually they reached me.

Rinaldo put his pen down, turned back to his painting, and worked for another forty minutes. The Model continued to sit in the next studio. The students continued to draw. And the strange people Rinaldo thought he had seen in the mist continued to wander. And somehow, among all of this, God’s presence continued to be felt. The ultimate creator in the place of creation. But then, was God the creator, or the creation, of man? That would be a question Rinaldo would contemplate one day. But not this day.

There was a break in the life drawing class and most of the students left the studio. The Model curled up on her couch to read and Rinaldo took the opportunity to look at their work. He walked around looking at the drawings. He was impressed. They were second year students and far more advanced than he was. He wondered whether he would ever develop the skills that they had. He wanted to, but he lacked confidence. He walked over to the rostrum, sat in front of the Model as if he didn’t realize she was curled up on the couch, and began writing in his note pad.

There was always something that he had to write. Always something going on in his head. The Model looked over his shoulder and read the words as they flowed from his pen. And as he wrote I saw a beautiful calligraphic script rise from the page in front of me. The words floated like butterflies through the mist of the studio. The wandering people caught them and absorbed the words into their existence. Then there was room for more on his paper. And there was always more.

You may like me to describe what Rinaldo was like. People often ask me that, but I am always lost for any words that would adequately sum him up. He seemed to defy description, just as much as he stubbornly rejected classification.

It may take longer to understand him but let his own words tell of who he was. Those words that, as he wrote, floated into the air and disappeared into another existence. A place that was as elusive as the thoughts he tried to convey.

‘Alone,’ he wrote. ‘Alone I sit here…’


At this point Rinaldo goes on to write a long poem. After a connecting narrative it is followed by…—–

Fragment 2

The New World


A charcoal mark on the wall can be greater art than ten pictures on a solid background and in costly gold frames. – Edvard Munch 1928


—–Rinaldo came into the life drawing studio a few days later. He walked across the room to the huge windows that allowed the morning sunlight to throw rays through dust particles in the air. The studio overlooked High Street, and Rinaldo leaned on the windowsill for a few minutes gazing down at the people passing by. There were always interesting people walking the streets of Prahran. There was a Mechanics Institute Library downstairs in the same building; a church opposite; an opportunity shop; a milk bar, and dry cleaners. And there were always people walking along High Street to and from Chapel Street.  He watched them for a while then went to a large set of drawers, removed some sheets of Imperial sized heavy weight art paper, clipped them onto a drawing board, and returned to his usual work space where he placed the board on his easel.

Other students did the same. Collected their paper and drawing boards and set up their easels. I was always intrigued by the way the art students seemed to mark out their territory in the studio and every lesson came back to the same place to draw or paint.

I watched Rinaldo as he rummaged through his art box for a suitable length of charcoal. Good quality willow charcoal was expensive and he kept every broken piece to use until it became too small to grasp. He took a piece about six centimetres long, stood at arms’ length from the easel, and looked across his right arm at the Model sitting on her rostrum. He wasn’t quite happy with the angle so adjusted the position of the easel a few degrees.

Satisfied, he placed the tip of the charcoal stick at a point near the top of the paper and waited as if for the starting gun at the beginning of a race.

‘Three minutes,’ announced the life drawing teacher as fifteen students waited to hear how long they had to produce their next masterpiece.

Eyes darted back and forth between the Model and the lines created by the rapidly diminishing sticks of charcoal.

‘Keep your eyes on the subject,’ urged the teacher as he noticed students trying to draw what they thought they knew, rather than what they actually saw in front of them.

Rinaldo fought the temptation to spend more time correcting his drawing than actually observing the Model. The outline took shape. The proportions seemed generally correct. Perhaps the legs and feet were too large, but that didn’t matter. It seemed to give the figure a certain monumental status.

‘Leave your mistakes,’ urged the teacher as he saw students trying to scrub erroneous charcoal from the paper with their kneaded putty erasers. ‘Leave them. Just draw over them.’

Rinaldo drew a new arm over the old one. It looked better. He quickly sketched in a horizontal line to indicate the position of the eyes. A vertical line to anchor the nose. Forget the details. There was no time for that. He drew over the hipbone to emphasize the sharpness. And the knee cap. The collar bone. Places that stood out, places that were sharp became darker. The parts that were soft, the planes that receded remained lighter.

‘Time,’ the teacher called.

The art students stepped back to consider what they had done. The intense three-minute silence was broken by a wave of conversation as students compared drawings and laughed at their own ridiculously disproportioned figures or praised the amazingly correct ones done by others. Rinaldo looked at his own drawing for a minute then lifted the sheet over the top of the easel to expose a fresh page ready for the next exercise.

An hour and six drawings later the class stopped for a quarter hour break. The teacher left. Most of the students also left. The Model sat on her rostrum reading a book, and waited for them to return.

Rinaldo walked around the room looking at the drawings that had been left on view. By comparison his work wasn’t that bad.  He took a drawing that he no longer wanted, folded the paper into quarters, and began writing.

The lines seemed to flow from his pen onto the paper much in the way the line from his charcoal had created images of the Model. And then from the paper they swirled around in the mist and mystery that filled the studio. Then the words disappeared, returning only momentarily as if to be sure they had been seen. But sometimes they left and didn’t return again until years later.

And as I watched Rinaldo wrote, ‘It’s a New World.

It’s a New World

At school where everyone is a stranger

I am alone, misunderstood

Disillusioned, unloved

By any

By all

He paused, as if that was all, and cradled his head in his hands.

The Model put her book down and wondered what he was doing. She was sure that he didn’t have to be alone. Certain that he wasn’t unloved. But for some reason he felt that way. And he kept his feelings to himself. He shared them hardly ever with others. So no wonder he felt misunderstood.

His pen continued, as if unaided, and wrote his thoughts.

When shall I find another like me

Whose thoughts are the same?

Teachers don’t care

They teach.

Students don’t care

They compete.

He read the words that had just been written. He took hold of the pen and repeated the last word. Three times.

Compete. Compete. Compete.

For what?

What is there in the end?

What end?

It is unseen

Unknown

The Model saw his thoughts and was about to ask what had brought about this apparent outpouring of self-doubt.

She grasped at the words as they floated past and as she held them she wondered. Since leaving school he had changed. Was it possible that he had entered a New World where everybody did seem like a stranger? Was it possible that he really did feel so much alone?

I think I was just beginning to appreciate the meaning of his words when the writing continued.

People are like islands

Separated from each other by oceans

Only few manage to swim that ocean

To find another island

And happiness.

I caught the words once more and stored them carefully in my heart. Hoping to look at them again later. Hoping to absorb their meaning even more. Hoping to understand what he thought.

Then I watched his pen as it continued.

The rest go through life as islands

Physically close to many others

But really far apart….

I watched the intensity in his face.

Artists are remotest of all

Each in his own world

Each locking out others

But still desiring love and friendship.

I felt the concentration of the Model as she watched him.

Someday I shall find happiness.

Someday disillusionment will go

Leaving truth to be seen in this world.

And then Rinaldo’s pen hesitated before writing the penultimate line of his poem.

Until then…

I am an island.

And as these words flew from the paper and drifted around the studio before fading from my vision, the Model looked at Rinaldo.

‘Do you really feel like that?’ was her look.

But Rinaldo didn’t answer the question and I was left to ponder his thoughts and whether he really felt that way. And just as the Model had been looking over Rinaldo’s shoulder, I think God had also been watching over mine and she was inspired to say.

‘Rinaldo. Take your book of poetry from the shelf once more and read John Donne. When he once felt the same he said no man is an island, entire of itself. Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.’

But did Rinaldo hear her advice? And if he did, did he choose to heed those words?


After a brief narrative to explain the situation in the studio, and Rinaldo’s doubts about his place in the new world of the Art School, Fragment 3 continues the story.


Fragment 3

The Flying Dutchman & The Rolling Stone


Imagine arabesques or various types of linear involutions unwinding themselves not on a flat surface but in space… imagine the play of their lines projecting upon and combining with the most diverse elements imaginable… they are the reverberations of a human expression, that, by means of the license of fantasy, have been embodied in a play of arabesques. – Odilon Redon 1909


–Throughout his childhood and adolescence, Rinaldo’s parents rarely tuned their solitary radio away from the conservative classical strains of the ABC. Nor did the family own a record player.

So Rinaldo built his own. He bought the components and learned about electrons and valves. Capacitance and resistance. Radio waves and sine waves. He could picture the electrons flowing through the wires, and jumping from filament to anode inside the vacuum tube valves. He could picture the electromagnetic radio waves being modulated by the voice of the speaker, or the sound of the orchestra, and travelling at the speed of light to the edges of the earth’s ionosphere before being deflected down again far beyond the horizon.

Soon he had constructed a short-wave radio that could pick up all the music of the world introduced in languages he didn’t understand. And he built a record player that would enable him to play his own records.

Building the radio and the record player were no problem. The problem was that Rinaldo had no records to play.

He searched the second-hand stores of Chapel Street and in the musty boxes of the Methodist Mission he found an ancient 78 recording of Maurice Ravel’s Bolero. It became the theme music of his home studio. Seventeen minutes of increasingly frenzied Spanish dance that drifted through the smoke of incense, and conjured up images of exotic oriental places.

He found an equally ancient recording of Wagner’s Flying Dutchman spread across the eight sides of four disks and sat listening to the music by candlelight as Wagnerian images became confused with those of Coleridge’s Ryme of the Ancient Mariner.

And then, as if to confound those who might have thought Rinaldo was beginning to become a devotee of classical music, on Friday the twenty-fifth of February 1966 Rinaldo and Alcina went to the Palais in Saint Kilda to see The Rolling Stones.

But like everything else, Rinaldo rejected classification. He had no answer to questions like ‘What kind of music do you like?’, because he liked whatever caught his interest at the time.

Two years earlier Rinaldo and Alcina had been to see The Beatles at Festival Hall. Despite what appeared to be an intermittent relationship, Rinaldo and Alcina actually did a lot together. They often went out to concerts and dances. He hated dancing, probably because he thought people would be watching him, but he enjoyed the music, and especially enjoyed the atmosphere.

Their seats for the Rolling Stones concert were good. They were near the front. It was in the days when the organizers of concerts still thought audiences would sit meekly in their seats and politely applaud at the end of each song.

But Rinaldo and Alcina wanted to stand right at the front. Right at the edge of the stage. So that’s where they went. They found themselves in a place where existence becomes precarious. Where the congestion of bodies threatens to crush one completely. Where the screaming of frenzied fans somehow drowns out the deafening decibels of the amplified music. And yet everybody knows exactly what music they are playing. They were in that place where fainting and hysteria, and the pushing and shoving of security guards are just part of the fun of being there. And being there is what it was all about.

So there they were, and Rinaldo brought out a photo of the group. Somehow he managed to thrust the photograph and a pen towards the stage just at the right moment. Unbelievably Mick Jagger took the photo and signed it.

Alcina was next to Rinaldo, holding on to him, so she thrust her hand out as well. And Mick Jagger took that hand and finding it empty signed it with his finger. And the moving finger, having writ, moved on.

So what would you expect a seventeen-year-old girl to do when twenty-four year-old Mick Jagger touches her hand? She screamed and screamed with joy and didn’t wash that hand for a month.


And now we move ahead to April 1966 and join Rinaldo and the art students at the renowned Station Hotel in Prahran.


Fragment 5

The Station Hotel


All of these isms are of foreign origin and have no place in American art… all are instruments and weapons of destruction… Picasso, who is also a Dadaist, an abstractionist, or a surrealist, as unstable fancy dictates, is the hero of all crackpots in so-called modern art… It makes little difference where one studies the record of surrealism, dadaism, abstractionism, cubism, expressionism, or futurism. The evidence of evil design is everywhere… Communist-inspired and Communist-connected… – U.S. Congressman George Dondero 1949


There was a newspaper seller just outside the art school in High Street and the posters for the newspapers told Rinaldo what was happening in the world. On the train in the morning he would see the headlines of newspapers held high by morning commuters and again he would learn about what was taking place. He didn’t need to purchase a newspaper of his own. The news of the world was all around him.

One week during March the news reported that Mars, the god of war, had given way momentarily to Venus, the goddess of love.

‘Don’t you think that’s exciting?’ said the Model as she pointed out the article in a newspaper that had been left on a table in the Station Hotel.

Rinaldo glanced at the headline. Vietnam had taken second place to the news that a Soviet spacecraft, Venera 3, had just reached Venus after a ten-week voyage. It was the first man‑made object to ever reach another planet. The event was matched in June when the American Surveyor 1 soft‑landed on the moon and sent photographs back to earth.

‘Yes, it is,’ agreed Rinaldo, as he repositioned his black knight in the game of chess they were absent-mindedly playing. ‘But it’s depressing.

He felt the Model’s question and explained with cynicism. ‘This isn’t just happening for the advancement of science you know. It’s happening because they want to outdo each other. It’s just a big game. And one side or the other is determined to win.’

He looked at the surface of the wine in his glass as it formed into a series of concentric ripples. An American B52 had just rumbled through the hotel on its way to North Vietnam. Or it might have simply have been a train pulling into the station next door. But either way, the plane accidentally dropped its bombs in China before somebody decided the pilot was lost.

‘A lost pilot fighting for a lost cause,’ thought Rinaldo. ‘That would be right.’

The Model moved one of her pawns into a place of instant obliteration, while Harold Holt dropped in for a beer with President Johnson. He promised that Australia would go all the way with LBJ. And, just to be sure, he added that he would triple Australia’s troop commitment to the war.

Well, if that’s what he wanted, nobody volunteered to help him out. At least, nobody at the Station Hotel. So they conscripted twenty-year olds to make up the numbers. But that was okay because the Army, they were promised, would make men of them. After all, most of them were long-haired louts who needed improvement.

‘Just what you need Rinaldo,’ somebody joked. ‘Something to make a man of you.’

‘Move your queen to there,’ somebody else advised the Model and then sang a couple of lines from the Beatles’ latest hit. ‘He’s a real nowhere man, living in a nowhere land.’

‘But how can killing make a man of anybody?’ Rinaldo asked, as he took the Model’s queen, and twenty thousand South Vietnamese marched through the streets of Hue to protest at the rule of their Premier Ky.

‘Doesn’t war take the humanity away from people, rather than giving it to them?’

‘Maybe going to war just happens to be uniquely human,’ suggested his Model as her strategy paid off and she captured the second of his knights.

‘Hm!’ he grunted. ‘But even the Buddhists are burning themselves to death in Saigon. And what does Ky do? He sends thousands of soldiers after them.’

‘I thought they were meant to be fighting the North Vietnamese,’ somebody said. ‘And the Viet Cong. Not themselves.’

‘That’s right,’ said Rinaldo. His bishop needed to make a strategic retreat. ‘But don’t forget, the VC are themselves. And the Americans can’t tell the difference. They all look the same to them. They even attacked a friendly village the other day and killed most of the people. Nearly all women and children.’

‘I think that was a mistake,’ his Model said quietly as she removed his queen from the board.

‘The whole thing a mistake,’ Rinaldo replied in disgust.

He glanced at the newspaper still lying on the table. It was Wednesday the twentieth of April. Three months until his birthday. Nearly nineteen. Twenty next year. Twenty!

Twenty-year-old conscripts were being chosen by lottery. They had been reduced to numbered marbles to be drawn from a barrel. Birthday marbles. If you turned twenty on that date you won a chance for the big prize. A trip to Vietnam.

The first group of prize-winners had left for Vietnam last night. It was in the paper. And just as the conscripts were flying out Bob Dylan had been singing ‘You’re only a pawn in their game.’

That’s right. Last night Rinaldo had been to see Bob Dylan at Festival Hall. He could hardly afford the three-dollar-fifty ticket, coming so soon after the Rolling Stones concert.

‘Come, gather round people,’ Dylan had sung. And the people gathered around. And they cheered. Some cheered the conscripts and others cheered Bob Dylan. And while some people were telling the conscripts that god would go with them, Dylan was singing a song about having god on our side. And how every side has god on its side. But then he sang about how the times were surely changing.

Rinaldo had thought about it a lot. About the changing times. And god. And whose side he was on. And the war. And being a pawn in the game. At times he wondered whether god was simply playing chess with himself and was moving all the pieces regardless of their colour.

He wondered what would happen when the game reached a state of check. When all the pawns had been removed from the board. And the bishops. And the castles. And knights. And queens. What would happen when the only players left were the black and white kings who boasted the symbols of power but had neither eyes to see, nor ears to hear. Bitter enemies, who having neatly divided the world up like a chessboard, and thought everything was clear-cut, now moved around it mindlessly imitating every move that the other made in a game that would never be won.

He looked at the chessboard in front of him. The Model had just taken his last pawn. Two solitary figures faced each other on a field of emptiness devoid of life. A chessboard whose black and white political divisions meant nothing to the nuclear winds that threatened to blow across them. There was nowhere left to go. Nowhere left to hide.  The game the world was playing had reached stalemate.

Rinaldo made up his mind over that game of chess.

‘I’ve had enough of this game,’ he said.

His Model looked at him and knew what he meant. His conscience would not allow him to be a pawn for any king whose only logic was to say ‘If you make a move to take me your destruction is equally guaranteed’.

The logic of mutually assured destruction was not only mad. It was insane.

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As explained above, this is a mere extract from Book One, which consists of 55 Fragments and as many connecting narratives. It is currently available only for limited distribution, however comments on the published fragments are welcomed, and if a demand seems to exist, further extracts may be published, or the whole book may be made available.


Extract from Book Two

Foreward to Book Two

‘The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there’. British author, L P Hartley, opened his 1953 novel, The Go-Between, with this line. And it was a line that historian David Lowenthal used as the title of his 1985 book on the nature of history.

You might recall that a significant part of Book One of this trilogy concerned the four years during which I was a student at the Art School in Prahran, between 1966 and 1969. It was a different time and place. Indeed, going back to the 1960s seems like entering a foreign country—a country in which we must learn a different language if we are to appreciate the nuances of its culture.

With that in mind, much of the narrative of my life at Art School was told in the third-person, through the eyes of an artist’s model. She was not just any model. She was The Model. And the story she told was about Rinaldo—who was me. But her narrative of Rinaldo’s life was incomplete and fragmented. Nevertheless, the first 55 fragments formed the basis of Book One, and Book Two begins again with Fragment 55, after which the third-person telling of Rinaldo’s story by The Model, gradually gives way to a first-person narrative where I tell my own history. As George Orwell said in 1984, ‘Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past’. Perhaps that is something we might consider when writing the history of our own lives.

Douglas Wilkie, 2017

 
 

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