Reality check

9781877008092

‘You no-good scribbler. Yes, I know who you are. I have seen your columns, God help us. I have read your foolish stories, may my enemies be so clever.’

And so, I am chided by Laizer – a Holocaust survivor in Arnold Zable’s book, Cafe Scheherazade – as he upbraids fellow book character, the writer Martin Davis. Poor Martin, someone else had just asked him: ‘My foolish child, what do you understand about the past? You did not live there, may my enemies have such luck. What do you know of such things? You were born here, in Australia, in a fortunate hour…’

I am not Martin, I was not born here in Australia, but the question remains: What do I know of such things?

As I savoured my first cup of coffee yesterday and watched the bees fuss over the flowering basil, it was so quiet that I could hear the clock ticking. In the stillness and peace of the moment, I wondered if I would ever be able to write about bombs falling, people throwing together belongings in a matter of hours, and families fleeing with only what their cars can carry.

That night I dreamt of Iraq. My arms jerked. I was disoriented. And then I was awake. ‘High Tea in Mosul’ lay on my bedside table, my last thoughts shaped by O’Donnell’s words before I drifted off.

Could I be getting closer to being able to write about what happened?