2 things converged this week. At a 7-ON Playwrights meeting last Tuesday I learnt that the New Theatre in Sydney is celebrating its 75th anniversary with Art is a Weapon (the theatre’s original 1930’s slogan), and I started reading David Grossman’s Someone To Run With. These days I don’t read much literary fiction (far too many family secrets unravelling on windswept coastlines somewhere or other for my taste), but there’s a major dog in a new play that I’m writing, so I’ve been seeking out dogs in literature, and Someone To Run With features a stray Labrador. Anyway, browsing the Internet to locate a copy of this novel, and—thanks to the New Theatre—ruminating on the language-war nexus, I found this:
‘I once thought of teaching my son a private language, isolating him from the speaking world on purpose, lying to him from the moment of his birth so he would believe only in the language I gave him. And it would be a compassionate language … I wanted to take him by the hand and name everything he saw with words that would save him from the inevitable heartaches so that he wouldn’t be able to comprehend the existence of, for instance, war. Or that people kill, or that this red here is blood. It’s a kind of used-up idea, I know, but I love to imagine him crossing through life with an innocent trusting smile … the first truly enlightened child.’
That’s David Grossman, quoted in The Guardian, 16 August 2006. His son, who was in the Israeli army, had been killed a few days previously.
I’m not quite sure why, but Grossman’s plea, and the New Theatre’s resilience, both reminded me that a part of being an Australian is to feel a part of somewhere else.