Abstract: Focusing on contemporary writing of first-generation Serbian migrants to Australia who write in the Serbian language, this paper addresses two distinct albeit related issues which arise from different meanings of the term topos. Australia, as represented in Serbian migrant writing, is firstly discussed as “a place”-both as a particular physical space or geographical location and as a place of the mind. Various literary conventions are then identified – such as the prevalence of a particular genre, motifs or figures of speech-and their implications further analysed in terms of their pertinence to the perception of Australia in the creative writing of first-generation Serbian migrant writers who write in Serbian. As a particular physical space, Australia is unmistakably situated by way of the North-South binary opposition, with the “Southern Sky” becoming a commonplace (topos) of Serbian migrant literature. Also, it is a place surrounded by the South Seas which serves to “drown all hopes.” Thus Australia as a place of the mind emerges as one of loneliness, solitude, isolation and suffering. The elegy, with its topos of comparison of the past and present, proves to be the dominant genre in the poetry which laments the loss of homeland, youth, friends, and love. An invocation of nature (as expounded by Ernst Robert Curtius in his European Literatures and the Latin Middle Ages) is deployed with the topoi such as the autumn-spring binary or the metaphors and poetic images of grey clouds, cobwebs, lost bees, cold skies, foreign flowers, marooned ships and lost anchors. Strikingly, the homeland is imagined as a loving mother whereas Australia, by implication, becomes a cruel foster parent whose actions of “taming” (i.e. assimilating) have to be resisted, making Serbs along with the Greeks and Italians “slow assimilators” as observed by Donald Horne in The Lucky Country.
Keywords: Serbian, migrant writing, Australia, topos
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