Book: Black Rock White City
Publisher: Transit Lounge
A. S. Patrić is the award winning author of Las Vegas for Vegans, published in 2012 by Transit Lounge. Las Vegas for Vegans was shortlisted for the 2013 Queensland Literary Awards’ Steele Rudd Prize. His debut novel Black Rock White City was launched to critical acclaim in 2015. He is also the author of Bruno Kramzer and The Rattler & other stories. Alec lives in bayside Melbourne and is a St Kilda bookseller.
During a hot Melbourne summer Jovan’s cleaning work at a bayside hospital is disrupted by acts of graffiti and violence becoming increasingly malevolent. For Jovan the mysterious words that must be cleaned away dislodge the poetry of the past. He and his wife Suzana were forced to flee Sarajevo and the death of their children.
Intensely human, yet majestic in its moral vision, Black Rock White City is an essential story of Australia’s suburbs now, of displacement and immediate threat, and the unexpected responses of two refugees as they try to reclaim their dreams. It is a breathtaking roar of energy that explores the immigrant experience with ferocity, beauty and humour.
A fresh and powerful exploration of the immigrant experience and Australian life, Black Rock White City explores the damages of war, the constraints of choice, the possibility of redemptive love and social isolation amid suburbia.
Traumatised by the carnage and personal tragedies of war-torn Yugoslavia, Jovan and Suzana wash up in mid-90s Melbourne where, a former poet and an academic, they find themselves limited by language and cultural stereotype into roles as cleaners.
A menacing sense of anarchy inhabits the hospital where Jovan works after an anonymous ‘Dr Graffito’ begins defacing the wards with cryptic, distressing messages. It is Jovan’s job to erase the evidence, all the while negotiating the blandness of a society that doesn’t see him, or the flashbacks of his former life and his dysfunctional marriage to Suzana.
In language as crisp and pungent as the chemicals Jovan uses to erase the graffiti, Black Rock White City submerges the reader in its unapologetic intimacy. It is at times brutal, and frequently challenging, yet a deft poetry underlies its cinematic reach. Patric’s idiosyncratic awareness and sometimes disconcerting vision inhabits the margins between realism and fable as the novel’s invigorating vitality, astute wit and adroit observations on the links between language and identity gives us a roller-coaster read that pins the immigrant – and the wider Australian – experience with an eye that is unflinchingly, and unforgettably, honest.
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