Louis Armand, Abacus
Long-listed for the Guardian's Not The Booker Award 2015.
A decade-by-decade portrait of 20th-century Australia through the prism of one family. Abacus is a novel about the end times, of generational violence and the instinct for survival by one of Australia’s leading contemporary poets.
"The cumulative effect of 'Abacus' is intriguing. While none of the characters really stands out individually, it’s fascinating to see the shifting patterns of opportunity and obligation and the interaction of individual constitutions with this across a century of Australian history. As a historical fiction, it’s certainly a welcome corrective to worn-out narrative tropes such as the discovery of lost diaries and the recrudescence of family secrets.
Armand writes with an admirable laconic economy. For example: “Afterwards, when Clarice Foley told him she was marrying a foreigner, George Luscombe was beside himself, as was Mrs Casey and the other girls in the choir, and all the rest of the congregation. They wanted to know who this foreigner was, what he was, how they’d met, did he speak English? When she told them he was a German, they just looked at each other not knowing what to say. But George Luscombe knew what to say, he’d served at El Alamein. ‘Ought to be ashamed of herself,’ his wife decided. He’d shrugged. He’d grown fond of the girl.”
What follows shows that George doesn’t reflect his fellow parishioners’ xenophobia. One of the real strengths of Abacus is the way Armand captures these tense and defining moments in Australian history, while the narrative sweep also shows their dissolution in time." Ed Wright, The Australian.
Louis Armand is a Sydney-bornwriter who has lived in Prague since1994. He is the author of six novels, including Breakfast at Midnight (2012),described by 3AM magazine’s Richard Marshall as “a perfectmodern noir,” and Cairo, shortlistedfor the Guardian newspaper’s 2014 Not-the-Booker Prize (both from Equus, London). His most recentcollections of poetry are Indirect Objects (Vagabond, 2014) and Synopticon (with John Kinsella; LPB,2012). His work has been included in the Penguin Anthology of Australian Poetry and Best Australian Poems. His screenplay, Clair Obscur, received honourable mention at the 2009 Alpe Adria TriesteInternational Film Festival. He directs the Centre for Critical and Cultural Theory in the Philosophy Faculty of Charles University where he also edits the international arts magazine VLAK.