Tuesday, May 09, 2023

“Forgive the Aborigines, the Jews, women, and God”: The conclusion of Les Murray’s “Fredy Neptune” (1999)

In Les Murray's "Fredy Neptune" (1999), Fred Boettcher, a German-Australian sailor on a German ship in Trabzon in 1915, witnesses Armenian women being burned to death. Shortly thereafter, he loses all sensation in his skin. Although he occasionally gets some of it back, only at the novel's end does he recover sensation completely. A voice he calls his "inner man" tells him to "forgive": first, "the Aborigines", "for being on our conscience"; then "the Jews" (after which "cities stop[] burning in [his] mind"); then "women" (all women, not just those who were burned); and finally "God". Almost a quarter century later, I still can't get my head around this startling conclusion. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 9 May 2023)

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