GREG LEHMAN. Full text of edited Letter to the Mercury Editor

The fictions of the past were masqueraded as historical, even scientific truth, in order to perpetuate a narrative that was clearly in the interests of the invading British. Flanagan has dared to put forward a fiction that equally bends the truth about history, but this time in order to underline the abuse and manipulation of Aboriginal people. In doing so, he disassembles the characters of a number of romantic figures in Tasmania’s colonial history who are too often held up as honourable men (and women).

THE criticism in the Mercury recently of Richard Flanagan’s decision to treat the saga of Mathinna and Governor Franklin as ‘fictionalised’ rather than documentary history is a neat irony.

We have had to deal with a diverse array of fictions in Tasmania about Aborigines over the past two centuries. The first was that we did not have any right to enjoy our ownership of the land.

Another was that we were not fully human.

Just as absurd was the assertion that Aborigines could survive for ten thousand years of isolation without the knowledge necessary to make fire.

All of these have served, at various times, to support the denial of justice, equality or respect to Tasmanian Aborigines.

The fictions of the past were masqueraded as historical, even scientific truth, in order to perpetuate a narrative that was clearly in the interests of the invading British.

Flanagan has dared to put forward a fiction that equally bends the truth about history, but this time in order to underline the abuse and manipulation of Aboriginal people. In doing so, he disassembles the characters of a number of romantic figures in Tasmania’s colonial history who are too often held up as honourable men (and women).

That this action might provoke the outrage of those who think to support Aboriginal people should be a reminder that we are all servants to the mythologies we find convenient to our own ends.

We are just as unlikely to find satisfaction in the search for truth in history as we are in the ‘wanting’ that prevents us from finding contentment in our own lives.

Greg Lehman

West Hobart