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Books that changed me: Declan Greene

A reading life: Declan Greene. Photo: Sasha WolleyDeclan Greene is an award-winning playwright and director and one half of the Australian theatre-making duo Sisters Grimm. His newest work, I Am a Miracle, which challenges injustices through the ages, will play at Melbourne’s Malthouse Theatre from July 18-August 8.
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Wonderful, Wonderful Times Elfreide Jelinek​

Elfriede Jelinek changed the way I wrote. I used to write quite florid prose (problematic as a playwright!), but the taut, brutal economy of Jelinek’s text knocked that out of me. Wonderful, Wonderful Times is my favourite of her novels. It’s set in postwar Austria, obsessed with the repression of recent history, where a group of young people, grown bitter and half-crazed, begin a series of horrifying attacks on random people.

The Passion Jeanette Winterson​

An epic, ambitious meditation on love, obsession and sacrifice that swings between the battlegrounds of the Napoleonic wars and a semi-mythical 19th-century Venice. The first time I read The Passion I was gobsmacked by the scale of its imagination. It is 10 years since I read it but there are still images burned into my brain: thousands of French soldiers pushed out to sea on sinking boats; a madwoman in a sewer canal wearing a crown made of live rats.

Tess of the d’Urbervilles Thomas Hardy

As a critique of Christian sexual morality, published in 1892, this novel’s fortitude is astonishing. Hardy’s sort-of-heroine Tess is a passive cipher for the desires of the men around her: an idiotic, pretentious father; an amoral, predatory cousin; a husband who offers salvation from her wretched life, but soon abandons her. Even Hardy is frequently dismissive and mocking of her. Still it’s a funny, ironic novel, which I think is almost always the best approach to tragedy.

Habeas Viscus Alexander G. Weheliye​

When I was struggling to write my play I Am a Miracle, this book shed new light on the material I was researching. Weheliye suggests that a state builds power by asserting its ability to decide whether a person is, or is not, “fully” human, with race as a key determining factor. It shifted the way I look at the world and our own government, making awful sense of their refusal to recognise the humanity of Indigenous Australians and asylum seekers.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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