True tales of journey and yearnings

Yuchen Lu

It has been an exciting evening for writers and storytellers in Sydney. Arnold Zable, the award-winning Australian writer, educator and human rights advocate, talked and shared his journey as a writer to a full room in the Margaret Martin Library, Randwick.

The New Zealand-born writer has travelled extensively – he has lived in the US, India, Papua New Guinea, Europe, Southeast Asia and China. He is also the president of International PEN in Melbourne, where he lives with his wife and son. His three novels, Cafe Scheherazade, Scraps of Heaven and Sea of Many Returns, the memoir Jewels and Ashes, and collection of short stories The Fig Tree, are set both in Australia and overseas.

He engaged the audience, which covered most age groups, with recollections of his feelings and by reading paragraphs from his famous collections, including Jewels and Ashes, The Fig Tree, Scraps of Heaven and Sea of Many Returns.

Arnold shared his ideas about writing and the importance of different kinds of storytelling. He said when beginning a new project he usually began by writing rather than doing research, indicating the importance of writing from the imagination. “When you use your imagination, it means you can see it, hear it, feel it and touch it in your mind,” he said. “When the imagination is successfully highlighted in your head, the image of your story will deliver to the audience clearly.”

He went on to speak about his most recent collection of stories, Violin Lessons, which recounts true tales of journeys, yearning and celebrations that span the globe. It has been described as a book about crossing cultural boundaries and moving to another world, and Arnold said that one of the most amazing parts of being a storyteller was to let your story lead you into a space where you have never been before. As well – and what he thinks is more crucial for a storyteller – you must interrogate the story, because every story and novel is an act of getting something out.