A Portrait of Alice as a Young Man
Vre Books, 2019
Review by Fiona Dorrell
A Portrait of Alice as a Young Man follows two friends as they journey from Melbourne to Alice Springs for the first time. From Uluru through to Pigglys’ carpark, to Honeymoon Gap and the backyards of Eastside, this book relays a few immersive weeks in a small and intimate community. It brings an artist’s curiousity, delight, and sense of enquiry to the task.
The journey is a vessel for reflections on Turkish-Australian identity, migrant experience, Aboriginal politics, race-relations, soccer and becoming a parent. Central Australia becomes a site for encountering and unpacking cultural identities and histories that in other places might be more obscured or easier to
At its heart, the book is about the particular kind of love between friends. It’s about an artist negotiating expectations and preconceived structures around
work, identity and family roles. It’s about the delight of unhinging from all these things and going somewhere unknown, and the electricity possible between friends embroiled in this risk together. It’s about how the author carries his responsibilities and cultural frameworks into new places.
I laughed out loud constantly as I read this book. Baskan’s voice is both playful and thoughtful. The familiarity of the characters and experiences was delightful and admittedly at times unnerving. No doubt many readers who have spent time in central Australia as either a visitor or resident will have aspects of their experience reflected here. I look forward to finding out how the book is received by readers elsewhere.
Ender Başkan is a writer from Melbourne. A Portrait of Alice as a Young Man is his first novel.
Fiona Dorrell is the Alice Springs Program Manager of the NT Writers’ Centre.