26 September 2023

Turn Left at Venus

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Reviewed by Rama Gaind.

By Inez Baranay, Transit Lounge, $29.99.

Ada and Leyla met as children on a boat bringing migrants from Old Europe to the New World in the 1930s. Even though they end up living miles apart from one another in suburban Sydney, their separations are often lengthy but their friendship endures across continents and decades. It forms a thread in this haunting story of writing, relationships and ageing.

Ada (A.L. Ligeti) becomes an author, searching for a Utopian world, exploring aspects of patriarchy and gender in her groundbreaking feminist science fiction novel called Turn Left at Venus. That novel and its sequels are celebrated and much discussed by generations of fans. Memory and imagination fold seamlessly into one another as Ada keeps moving on, from relationships and places, living in hotels and rental spaces in Kings Cross, San Francisco, Ubud and elsewhere.

Baranay’s expressively reverberating portrayal of the ‘solitary and artistic life, lived adventurously across space and time, triumphantly celebrates the singularity of being, of age, of imagination, and of the ‘getting ready’ for the ending that life demands’.

She invents a new challenge with atypical voice and complex structure for her work — “various threads, several voices, how to arrange them, in what sequence, what kind of rhythm this structure makes”.

As Baranay says: “Writing never gets easier … it is a creative act, artistry, a craft. The opportunity to spin a yarn. To raise your voice, to right wrongs. To mark changes in thought, passages of time, ways of doing life.”

Author of 12 books, she began this novel over a few weeks in Antwerp, mostly wrote it during some years in Turkey, also worked on it in Budapest, tried to figure out its shape at a writers workshop in Bulgaria and finished it on her return to Australia.

How appropriate for a novel that “moves around in time, around the globe, into inner space and outer space”.

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