Why I Read Blak – Drusilla Modjeska

Award-winning Australian author Drusilla Modjeska considers the many ways reading Blak has enriched her reading and writing life.

The first Blak novel I read was Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. It was published in 1958, and I read it a decade later, when I was in Papua New Guinea, studying at the University of PNG. There was a lot of Blak writing at the university, I was in classes with students who were writing articles for the student newspaper, writing and performing plays that we all went to, publishing small books of poetry, some of which I still have on my shelves. It was a time of great awakening for me. I’d grown up in England, where I’d read Kipling, fascinated with the stories of India, but of course I was introduced to it by an English writer, a child of Empire – for all that he loved the place he wrote of. It was reading Chinua Achebe that gave me an understanding of the impact and effect of colonialism – Achebe, who died in 2013, was, of course, Nigerian. Achebe and those young student writers I had the good fortune of studying with, turned my world-view around. Since then reading Blak has been as much a part of my reading as reading women, reading world literature, reading the classics.

Of those long-ago students in PNG, Russell Soaba is still writing – one of the best post-colonial Blak writers of our region – and has fostered the rising generation of young Papua New Guinean writers, who are little know here, in neighbouring Australia. Oh how I wish writers like Steven Winduo, Martyn Namorong, Regina Dorum, Gary Juffa and Leonard Fong Roka (to name just a few) could be in Melbourne for the Blak & Bright Literary Festival.

Drusilla Modjeska is one of Australia’s most acclaimed writers. Her latest book is Second Half First(Random House).



One thought on “Why I Read Blak – Drusilla Modjeska”

  1. I can relate to Ms. Modjeska’s reading experience with Blak Literature. I am an African American poet, educator, and multicultural literature advocate committed to reading and sharing writings produced by Black writers around the world.

    I read Chinua Achebe’s novel Things Fall Apart as an undergraduate in college. I was enlightened by Achebe’s exploration of colonialism, Nigerian tribal culture, and intergenerational conflicts. Since reading the novel, I began reading other writings by Black international writers which fostered my interest in Black Australian writers.

    In my creative writings and literary scholarship, there is a strong focus on bridging poetry, fiction, and personal narratives across diverse ethnicities and nationalities. I look forward to adding Papua New Guinean writers to my studies.

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