Ashley Barnwell and Joseph Cummins, Reckoning with the Past: Family Historiographies in Postcolonial Australian Literature. London and New York: Routledge, 2019, 131 pages.
by Geoff Rodoreda and Catherine Noske
“Reckoning with the past” is not a term invented by the authors of this book nor is it particularly new. But in recent years, in book titles and in political campaigning, the term has become more closely associated with troubled national pasts. It is used, for instance, in connection with Nazism in Germany (Bammer), sectarianism in Northern Ireland (Smith), slavery in British history (Evans), dictatorship in Chile (Siavelis), and Apartheid in South Africa (“Reckoning”). Australia’s colonial past (and its colonialist present) is now brought into a company of critical scholarship on violence, memory and denial in the recounting and storying of nation with this book. For Barnwell and Cummins, reckoning involves uncovering, confronting and revising “the lingering, haunting aftermath of colonial injustice” (1). Reckoning, then, is a specifically postcolonial process that includes “a measurement, a settling of accounts, sometimes even the avenging or punishing of misdeeds” (3). …………..