There are people amongst us, it’s true, who are forced to experience such unimaginable horror. Even though Australia isn’t completely free of horror, there are nations on the other side of the globe that have imploded – or that have been allowed to implode by a morally ineffective international community – and what these nations have had to endure is beyond the reach of our rational minds.
Enter Alexander Maksik.
A New Yorker, though clearly well-travelled, Maksik’s novel A Marker to Measure Drift is a poetic, often mesmerising creation that carries the reader all the way to its horrific though inevitable conclusion. Some may ask questions about a Caucasian man telling an African woman’s story – and there is worth in asking these questions – but this novel is eminently readable, and should in fact be read by many, including those of us here who are able to live in blissful comfort at the bottom of the world.
A Marker to Measure Drift concerns Jacqueline, a young Liberian woman who finds herself (loses herself?) on Santorini, the popular holiday island on the Aegean Sea. It is summer and the towns and villages are alive with tourists sunning themselves on idyllic beaches, swimming lazily in hotel pools, and enjoying sumptuous lunches and dinners. For those who can afford these luxuries it is paradise on Earth. Fittingly, cleverly, Maksik has chosen this place as Jacqueline’s refuge from her broken homeland – the island is highly volcanic and has tried to destroy itself more than once in the past. This used to be the centre of Minoan civilisation, now well and truly ancient history.
Nations come and go, Maksik may be suggesting, and their going tends to be unintelligibly violent…
Keep reading over at the Sydney Morning Herald. Originally commissioned by the Canberra Times and published on 12 October 2013.