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“Sorry”, Gail Jones

About the author
Rob Cawston is openDemocracy's production manager. He has written on film, literature, issues of transitional justice and Bob Dylan.
Gail Jones, "Sorry" (Harvill Secker, 2007)

"Sorry" by Gail Jones

Harvill Secker | 7 June 2007 | ISBN 184655053X

Extract from the opening of Sorry:

A whisper: sssshh. The thinnest vehicle of breath.

This is a story that can only be told in a whisper.

There is a hush to difficult forms of knowing, an abashment, a sorrow, an inclination towards silence. My throat is misshapen with all it now carries. My heart is a sour, indolent fruit. I think the muzzle of time has made me thus, has deformed my mouth, my voice, my wanting to say. At first there was just this single image: her dress, the particular blue of hydrangeas, spattered with the purple of my father's blood. She rose up from the floor into this lucid figure, unseemly, but oh! vivacious with gore. I remember I clung to her, that we were alert and knowing. There might have been a snake in the house, for all our watchful attention.

'Don't tell them,' she said. That was all: Don't tell them.

Her eyes held my face, a fleck in watery darkness. Then we both wept; she washed me away. And when for comfort we held hands, overlapping as girls do, in riddled ways, in secret understandings and unspoken allegiances, the sticky stuff of my father's life bound us like sisters. Outside, at the screen door, our kelpie scratched and whimpered, demanding admittance. Mary and I ignored him. The scale and meaning to do things at that moment was obdurately human.


On Saturday 26th May Australians will celebrate the tenth national "Sorry Day". Part of a process of national reconciliation the day recognizes the historical injustice suffered by the aboriginal people.

Novelist and academic Gail Jones' latest book, simply entitled "Sorry", is a poetic exploration of childhood, language and retelling, and a critique of the politics of apology in modern-day Australia.

This week, Gail Jones paid a visit to the openDemocracy office in London. Here she is reading from the opening pages of her novel...

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