Christios Tsiolkas – The Slap

The plot – There is a middle class barbeque in Melbourne and one man slaps a three-year old who is not his son, and frankly is a pain in the arse.  The book deals with the reverberations of this on the other characters lives.  There are roughly eight sections each narrated by a different character.

My problem is that I can’t work out if this book is really insightful about the dilemmas of modern life or just trashy.
A negative aspect of the novel is that everyone is horrible – they are either doing drugs, cheating on their partners, indulging in domestic violence, having brutal sex, etc.  It highlights a problem that I noticed whilst living in Melbourne which is that of  racism, especially in the suburbs – however it becomes hard to tell if certain aspects of the novel have Tsiolkas holding a mirror up to this  as racism or just expressing those narrow views himself – its hard to tell.  He deals with racism towards Aborigines but also the problems of immigration of the ‘wogs'(???) which in Aussie speak are European immigrants such as the Greeks and Italians.  As a member of a Greek family I imagine he is well placed to comment on this.
The central dilemma of the novel, the slap is complicated by the fact that the child is so awful that you want to hit him yourself and the parents are such annoying hippies.  This makes the novel more interesting and the fact that the characters are not as black and white as they may seem adds a level of interest.   It was very interesting reading about my old Melbourne haunts and reminiscing about my trip to Ubud as the characters go to these places, I am not sure if someone who hadn’t visited Melbourne would find it quite as interesting.

Overall it paints a largely unflattering view of Australia, elements of which I found to be true – scratch the surface of the cosmopolitanism and there is racism.  It is a good beach page turner but I am largely unsure of whether it has the literary merit to have earned its place on the Booker longlist.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Christios Tsiolkas – The Slap

  1. Charlotte Gillam

    The Slap is back in the papers here as a mini series has just been made of it (starring Angel from Home and Away as pathetic Rosie). This is a piece from The Age by Julie Szego http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/contrived-to-shock-lets-hope-the-slap-is-more-than-tv-schlock-20110722-1hsx2.html

    I remember thinking that the racism in the book felt like it was being observed by Tsiolkas where as the sexism was actually his. I also got thoroughly sick of being constantly told about how good looking everybody was, as if it’s beyond belief average looking people might be having rough sex too – but, hey that could be my own baggage revealing itself!

    I would say that all the characters are revolting except for the young gay guy and maybe the Grandfather and I just can’t share in that view of humanity. However the book did linger in my mind for a long time after reading which I prefer to the opposite.

    • Giuliana

      you are being too kind about a dreary doorstop full of politically correct self hatred, unless you are young, gay and attractive. a trite, conceited view of the world posing as sensitive insight. too much of this trash about and its got to the point I dont read novels by new Australian writers. Not that this one is new, but new enough, crest of wave rider.

      • Do you know any good Australian authors, has been one of my recent thoughts. Is this a controversial question? Always been told Patrick White is good but haven´t read any. Enjoyed Peter Carey´s ´True History of the Kelly Gang´.

  2. The Age woman certainly doesn’t like it does she? I found this book a bit difficult and wondered if I sounded like a racist towards the Aussies while I was writing the review but you are right everyone is revolting. The middle aged characters made me feel like I was obviously really boring due to not taking loads of speed and having the most amazing sex of my life every night. I hated Rosie more than words could say although I did notice that she got a slagging for living in North Fitzroy so maybe I was just as bohemian as her??? Hugo needed to be killed and probably Harry too, that would have been a good conlusion for me.

    The author photograph made me concerned too – too many steroids at the gym? Yes it has stayed with me too but it isn’t ‘the great Australian novel’ as it says on the blurb.

  3. Have been thinking about your comments as I watch the Slap. I personally think its crap. Karl was disgusted by the acting ability but it seems to have got brilliant reviews. I just think an hour for each person is too long as nothing much happens. Also Hugo isnt horrible enough. Any thoughts?

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