You may ask, ‘Why publish a book that is thirty years old?’ According to Michael Rakusin, co-founder of GHR Press, it was a privilege and an honour to commemorate and promote a book that was not only a classic because of its style, characterisation and imagery, but also because, as a fellow immigrant, he connected with the book on a personal level. Rakusin described For the Patriarch as a ‘masterful and magical collection of stories’ that spoke so loudly and so clearly to him, not only about the migration experience but also the experience of being first and second generations of migrant families.
To formally introduce and launch the book, Elizabeth McMahon, academic of Australian Literature, spoke about the importance of the short story. The genre has had periods of great popularity in Australia, especially in the period dubbed the ‘long 1970s’ in which authors like Frank Moorehouse, Peter Carey and Thea Astley were prolific. In this time, short stories opened a new space in Australian literature with their strong tradition of focusing on characters who were marginalised and ‘strange’. Written in 1981, Loukakis’ book certainly fits into this extended heyday.
McMahon spoke about how a short story has the power to leave the reader suspended in an unresolved emotion or event - an experience that would be ‘blunted’ by a longer version – and praised For the Patriarch for being a collection in which not one of the stories or emotions it evokes have waned since its release.
Looking back on himself and his work of thirty years ago, Loukakis remembered an ambitious young author who wanted to make a market for his stories and who wanted to be taken seriously. He had felt compelled to write because of the unease he felt at the amount of experiences being lost in the conformist society of the 1950s and 1960s - those marginalised voices that were being silenced either because of race, sex, sexuality or culture in the social fabric and psyche of Australia. Loukakis toasted to young people and cited Orwell in his wish that young people would continue to find a new voice and alter other people’s ideas of the kind of society they should strive after.
Michael Rakusin presented Loukakis with the publishing contract at the end of the launch – an exciting moment that represented the start of GHR Press’ new literary venture and the chance for Australian readers to (re)discover the importance and eloquence of For the Patriarch.
Written by Natalie