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The Journal of English Language and Literature , Vol.65, No.3, 441 ~ 454, 2019
Title
Abjection and Sacrifice in Christos Tsiolkas’ “Merciless Gods” (2014)
Ivan Canadas
abstract
This paper examines “Merciless Gods” (2014) by Australian writer- Christos Tsiolkas, whose novels include Loaded (1995), Dead Europe (2005), The Slap (2008) and Barracuda (2013), all since adapted for film or television. Tsiolkas’ fiction delves into contemporary social issues, often in an urban or suburban Australian setting, withcharacters who often reflect Tsiolkas’ own homosexual identity and his upbringing in ethnically-diverse Melbourne. A complex narrative, “Merciless Gods” questions our world’s capacity to preserve social cohesion in the face of inequality andself-absorption. As an unnamed narrator recalls a confessional party game which unfolded among old friends, his framework of successive narratives leads to a climactic revelation which shattered the group’s unity and left each friend individually, personally, shaken after one of them, Vince, claimed to have committed a horridcrime in a remote, foreign land. However, intellectual games of abjection, sublimation, sacrifice and redemption―and, conversely, condemnation and ostracism―arguably reveal the monster among the innocent as art’s Gnostic savior, suggesting that Vince and the unnamed narrator are an ironic, dualistic projection of Tsiolkas himself― a willing scapegoat, sacrificing self for his friends’, and readers’, moral purification.
Key Words
Christos Tsiolkas, “Merciless Gods,” gnostic, sexuality, abject
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