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An Unknown Australian War Novel: Miles Franklin’s Nemari ništa: Six Months with the Serbs

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Miles Franklin’s sketches from the Balkan front are discussed in the context of Franklin as an Australian writer of “the soil” whose observations of the Serbian soldiers and life in the hospital camp on the Salonika front take the form of sketches of manners. The sketch of manners is announced in the literary manifestoes of the French, the English and the Russians as part of a poetics of Realism in the European literary canon. These prescribe the capturing of a moment in time as the task of the writer, who acts as a ‘local historian’ perpetuating the memory of the manners and mores of his contemporaries for posterity. Franklin’s sketches comply also with the idea of ‘circumstantial beauty’ propounded by Charles Baudelaire in his essay on Constantin Guys. It is argued that the Serbs portrayed by Franklin become a symbol of the desire of the age. The sketches transcend the modest claims of the writer of being simple testimony to the Serb as she saw him and are a chronicle of feelings of the author, her reactions to sounds, sights and the humanity she encounters. It is the personalized emotive point of view, described as “Australianism” which imparts unity to the sketches and gives grounds for calling Six Months with the Serbs an Australian war novel.


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