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Immigrant Chronicle by Peter Skrzynecki

Immigrant Chronicle

by Peter Skrzynecki

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This book boasts back-cover blurbs from an extraordinary bunch of Big Names: Kenneth Slessor, Randolph Stow, Rosemary Dobson. But it’s probably the least famous of the blurbers who nails the reason it has stayed in print for 35 years when, say, David Malouf’s or Les Murray’s first volumes are long out of print and fetching vast sums on e-Bay: Stephen Magee announces that ‘Immigrant Chronicles can fairly be claimed to be the best poetical treatment of the immigrant experience, in Australia, since the nineteenth century’. Ah, poetical treatment of a significant historical subject – perfect for study in high school. And indeed, the book has been set in the NSW Higher School Certificate. .

It's not a verse novel. There are poems about pelicans, a snake, Michael Dransfield, a death mask and so on. But it does encompass a narrative arc that justifies the 'Chronicle' in its title. There’s the much anthologised ‘Migrant Hostel: Parkes 1949–51‘, and perhaps a dozen more, including some raw and melodramatic poems that seem about Skrzynecki’s mother’s experience of the ‘mental health’ system (though he explains on his web site that they are not to be taken as factual in every detail) and a number about becoming a father. A good part of the interest is documentary – that is, the poems are interesting because they inform us about ‘the immigrant experience’, or more accurately _an_ immigrant experience. ( )
  shawjonathan | Apr 26, 2010 |
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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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