The book is published by Udruga OS, and is conceived as a series of thirty-nine prose miniatures in alphabetical order, forming the backbone of diverse events and experiences of the heroine and the many actors in her story. The cover art is by Patricio Alejandro Aguero, a resident of Zagreb with roots in Venezuela.
Writer and opinion journalist Tuga Tarle, a retired professional diplomat and an active promoter of Croatian culture in the world, has published her latest novel Moja australska priča (My Australian Story), promoted in Zagreb on the 22nd of November. The novels delves into the difficulties associated with emigrant life and is targeted to both children and adult readers. In it the author offers an easily approachable and readable text from the viewpoint of an eleven-year-old child discussing matters of importance in life.
The book is published by Udruga OS, and is conceived as a series of thirty-nine prose miniatures in alphabetical order, forming the backbone of diverse events and experiences of the heroine and the many actors in her story.
At the presentation of the novel at the headquarters of the Croatian Writers’ Society critic and writer Lada Žigo called the book a wonderful, overflowing work, a nostalgic tale in the vein of The Little Prince – readable to young and old alike, penned by a very modern woman capable of seeing things from every possible angle.
“The book is dedicated to all wandering spirits that are in some way also cosmopolitans with an unquenched yearning for the homeland,” says Žigo. “You can learn more about Australia from this book than from any history textbook,” she adds.
Literary critic, writer and diplomat Đuro Vidmarović noted that the author “links Croatia and Australia in an extra-literary dimension.”
“In the process she has applied a post-modern collage of genres, synthesizing a number of literary genres – memoir, archive, documentary, photo-documentary – i.e. everything that can make a book very interesting,” Vidmarović notes.
In her book Tarle aims to demystify the Australian Dream, and perhaps to respond to the intentions of the current zeitgeist, in which we all believe that anywhere is better than at home, he notes, adding that, “She wishes to tell the whole truth and tell people that they should not imagine the world as a colourful balloon as she imagined it to be.”
Up to 2013 Tuga Tarle was a professional diplomat and international promoter of Croatian culture (Chile, Spain, Australia and Slovakia). She is also a socially engaged opinion journalist and writer. She launched and led the DORA foundation for children that had suffered as a result of the war waged against Croatia (1991–1996), was the founder and first president of the Croatian Humanitarian Network, founded the Croatian-Spanish friendship society in Madrid (2001) and the Diplomatic Club of deputy ambassadors in Bratislava (2011).
In 2013 she founded Udruga OS, an association that promotes Croatian cultural identity and has been a member of the editorial board of the CHF’s Matica magazine since the mid 1990s. She has also contributed to several editions of the Croatian Heritage Foundation’s Croatian Emigrant Almanac and to many daily newspapers and magazines, round tables and the Croatian national radio and television broadcaster HRT, with over five hundred published articles.
She has to date published four books of her own authorship in which she delves into literature, dance and questions of identity and emigrant issues: Croatian and Australia/New Zealand – Historical and Cultural Links (2002), Dance Critiques (2009), Ariadne’s Thread (2012) and Croatian Emigrant Spiritualogue (2013).
My Australian Story is a novel about one emigrant adventure and a mythical time of “poor, but safe and happy people,” on the eve of great social turbulence, war and transition in the homeland. The book draws on authentic conversations and notes from letters the author’s daughter Maša Tarle sent from Australia to friends in the homeland. The novel develops from the viewpoint of a young girl that, in the sensitive years of growing up, lives the experiences of an emigrant in a milieu entirely removed from what she is accustomed to, causing her to pass through a dramatic adaptation crisis. The author notes that the book could never have been written without the dairy entries of her daughter Maša, which encouraged her to contemplate the psyche of a child torn from her domicile milieu and moved to a new, emigrant and foreign life.
“I wanted to try to enter the psyche of this child, see what was going on in there – and not only of my own child, but of all children that have been moved abroad,” says Tarle.
“All of us carry with us a great deal of baggage, it accumulates and at one moment – not an easy one – it comes out,” Tarle says. The experience of her own daughter helped in describing this all in a book – she idealised everything she had left behind in the homeland while everything new she found in Australia was foreign, unpleasant and frightening.
“This helped, this experience everyone needs, to move away from the idyllic milieu in which we are steeped, even when it is in fact very difficult and not at all idyllic, to see and begin to observe the world and one’s own life from the other side. My children have been my greatest teachers – listening to what they experienced helped me understand many of the secrets of the world and the human spirit,” Tarle says.
The book opens with an introduction in which the heroine and narrator speak directly to the reader and announce the story of their dramatic experience. This is followed by thirty-eight prose segments that treat one of the subjects, issues and experiences faced during life in Australia.
Writer and journalist Josip Sanko Rabar observed that the book is fascinating to children because it describes the exotic world of Australia, and to adults because it contemplates worldviews, cultural patterns and seeks answers to the meaning of life as an emigrant.
“The book can be read in any order, as there is no chronological line to follow, and is both critical of Australia and expresses love for the country,” Rabar says.
Comparative literature graduate, art historian and librarian Ranka Javor says that this book, which began to emerge over twenty-five years ago, is now more current than it ever could have been. “The diary entries of the author’s daughter Maša appear to be a good stimulus for creativity to – as it is so often in the arts – create something beautiful from hardship,” Javor says. “In it Tarle utilises the direct view of the child to speak of issues very important in life in very simple, very comprehensible and very few words,” she adds.
She spoke in particular of the illustrations, which she says are, “integrated into the text in a fascinating and intelligent manner; they are scattered, without solid contours or firm edges, which imparts an unusual, beautiful dimension to the illustrations.”
The cover art is by Patricio Alejandro Aguero, a resident of Zagreb with roots in Venezuela, who was also on hand for the book promo. The event was also graced by the presence of Australian ambassador to Croatia Susan Cox, and Chilean ambassador Juan Luis Nilo Valledor.