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In a scintillating fusion of politics, philosophy and social satire, Michelle de Kretser’s Questions of Travel presents a broad canvas of contemporary, globalised Australian experience to explore different modes, reasons and consequences of travelling. We follow the movements of Laura, a middle class Australian traveller in search of life’s meaning through immersion in foreign places and cultures, and those of Sri Lankan Ravi, who starts out dreaming of travel for tourism or study, and is then forced to join the ranks of those who make their way to Australia seeking asylum.
The themes and questions the novel raises about what it means to be an Australian today are both timely and necessary: questions of movement and settling, of belonging and welcome, of misunderstanding and tolerance in a diverse multicultural world. Questions of Travel is a beautifully observed and compassionate rendering of contemporary life—life that in less lucky countries is also shadowed by war, communal conflict, and the brutal exercise of power upon those who oppose it. Whether set overseas, in Australia, or exploring our experiences of travel through memory, or the armchair travel of guidebooks and the internet, Michelle de Kretser’s novel brings us the world in intricate and absorbing detail, and through it a vital and illuminating perspective on ourselves as a society grounded in travel, settlement and migration.
This is the work of a novelist at the height of her powers of discernment, calling to our attention the scope of our own human experience: from the tedium and delicately detailed minutiae of waiting out unremarkable childhoods, travel and work experiences, to the heightened bursts of connection, drama and heartbreak that travel brings—whether forced or voluntary—as it gives shape to our lives. The poetic and rhythmic precision of de Kretser’s language is a breathtaking journey in itself: alternately fine and funny, light-hearted or filled with horror, gently ironic or intensely moving, it encompasses both tragedy and comedy with equal ease. Questions of Travel is an extraordinary and transformative work in which the insights and sensibilities of a virtuoso novelist seamlessly navigate the fundamental concerns of a contemporary globalized world.