Book Discovery: Axiomatic by Maria Tumarkin
“Everyone is looking for the next Helen Garner and Maria Tumarkin shares with Garner a gimlet eye for the flaws in official systems, along with a fascination for the narratives nested in everyday lives. Axiomatic’s symphonic structure, however, recalls Svetlana Alexievich, the Belarusian journalist and Nobel Laureate. She is another for whom reality attracts like a magnet, who has made a career out of appropriating and braiding voices and documents, seeing the world as a chorus and a collage. With this remarkable, wild, risk-laden book, Tumarkin has earned the right to be mentioned in the same breath as both of them.―The Saturday Paper In this spellbinding exploration of the varieties of love, the author of the worldwide bestseller Call Me by Your Name revisits its complex and beguiling characters decades after their first meeting.
This is the story
Drawing on nine years of research, Axiomatic explores the ways we understand the traumas we inherit and the systems that sustain them. In five sections―each one built on an axiom about how the past affects the present―Tumarkin weaves together true and intimate stories of a community dealing with the extended aftermath of a suicide, a grandmother’s quest to kidnap her grandson to keep him safe, one community lawyer’s struggle inside and against the criminal justice system, a larger-than-life Holocaust survivor, and the history of the author’s longest friendship.
With verve, wit, and critical dexterity, Tumarkin asks questions about loss, grief, and how our particular histories inform the people we become in the world. Axiomatic introduces an unforgettable voice.
Reviews and What Readers Say
“The reader’s equivalent of catching lightning in a bottle, Axiomatic showcases a brilliant and perceptive mind . . . Full of grace and insight, it is an exceptional book." —Foreword Reviews “Nobody can write like Maria Tumarkin: she charges headlong into the worst and best of us, with an iron refusal to soften or decorate; sentences bare of artifice, stripped back to the bone, to the nerve; fired by raging grief and love.” —Helen Garner, author of The Children's Bach “Maria Tumarkin writes of difficult topics with utmost integrity. Axiomatic is a dark gift: heartfelt, painful, full of sorrowful compassion. From schools, courtrooms, prisons, refugee camps, Soviet spaces and more personal inner life, come stories that break open the silence of suicide and the mystery of spirited persistence.” —Gail Jones “Axiomatic is a series of open-ended essays about different people, as well as Tumarkin’s own intense experiences of love and friendship. Consoling pieties do not interest her. There is no resolution, no comfort. It is a bleak view of the world, but for many people, including Tumarkin’s friend Vera, 'That’s how it goes.' This happened. That happened. I am here. You are here. Lucky for us Tumarkin is here, too. Trying.” —The Monthly
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Maria Tumarkin is a writer and cultural historian. She is the author of three previous books of ideas, Traumascapes, Courage, and Otherland, all of which received critical acclaim in Australia, where she lives. Her most recent work, Axiomatic, won the 2018 Melbourne Prize for Literature’s Best Writing Award.