Friday, January 8, 2016

Reckoning, by Magda Szubanski

Staff review by Chris Saliba

Magda Szubanski's literary debut is an unexpected gem.

Magda Szubanski has been entertaining Australians for decades as a performer of brilliantly observed sketch comedy. Many of her characters, such as Sharon Strzelecki from Kath and Kim, have become cultural icons. To read Reckoning, her literary debut, is to discover someone unrecognisable from the public persona. It’s a book full of inner conflicts, often as moody as a Bergman film.

One of the defining traumas examined in Reckoning is the author’s relationship with her father. In 1943 Zbigniew Szubanski joined a Polish execution squad. He was only nineteen years old. For many years Magda agonised over the morality of her father’s war time activities. He killed Nazis, but was he still one of the good guys? She also wondered what she would have done in his circumstances. Would she be brave enough to stand up and do what’s right?

The other issue is Szubanski’s gay sexuality, which she has painfully kept secret. These parts of Reckoning accurately describe what it was like to grow up closeted in the late seventies and early eighties, just as gay rights were emerging.

Reckoning is an unexpected gem. Brilliantly written, with many a memorable turn of phrase, Magda Szubanski has skilfully mixed the personal and political into something unforgettable.

Reckoning, by Magda Szubanski. Published by Text. ISBN: 9781925240436 RRP: $49.99

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