Page 65 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 42

Basic HTML Version

the critic, A. A. Phillips, has called “the most improbable Austra­
lian writer who has ever existed,” certainly apt when his back­
ground is considered. O f Hungarian-Jewish stock and brought
up in Germany, he underwent many vicissitudes which brought
him to various countries, including Palestine, Spain, England
and India. He finally found some sort of congenial haven for his
restless wanderlust in Australia where, today, he lives and writes
in the small country town of Beechworth.
A writer of great versatility, Martin has some thirty titles to his
name. He is at once a novelist whose works are set as far afield as
Cardiff, India, Germany, a fictitious Far-Eastern State, Austra­
lian suburbia and a provincial county town; he writes o f Greeks,
Aborigines, Jews, Chinese, Turks, Lebanese, Croatians, etc., all
with equal facility; he is a children’s author, a poet and an essay­
ist; he has been a globe-trotter, a Marxist, and is now in Dr.
Phillip’s description, “a member of the human race.” Only two of
his works shall here be dealt with, works which shall probably be
the most lasting:
The Young Wife
Where a Man Belongs.
The Young Wife
(1952) is the first of Martin’s novels to be set in
Australia and it is logical enough that it should deal with mi­
grants. What is here refreshing is that the more conventional is­
sues of assimilation, adjustment and group survival are not par­
ticularly salient concerns. Rather, to quote Yoni Haddock, writ­
ing in the Australian Jewish Historical Society Journal (vol. VIII,
1, 1975): “On one level, the novel could be described as having
‘imposed one set of cultural loyalties upon another, the conse­
quences inviting tragic catharsis’; on a higher metaphysical level,
the theme is that o f creativity versus destructiveness, expressed
through the psychological turmoil o f adjustment to a new cul­
The Young Wife
tells o f Anna, a beautiful young Cypriot who
has been imported to Australia to be the bride o f Yannis by the
groom’s mother, Maria, whose blind traditionalism is still rooted
in Cyprus as the center o f simplicity and fertility. Against these
stand her elder son, Alexis, and his wife who refuse to have
ch ild ren , thereby a lign ing themselves with the forces o f
destruction, fu rthe r stressed symbolically by the allusions to
Alexis’ business which, in part, consists o f selling abortive drugs.
Into this menage enters Criton, an artist, for whom Australia is a
self-imposed exile in which he wants to create and put behind
him the destruction he has known in the Civil War in Cyprus.