Linda Herrick is the Arts and Books Editor at the NZ Herald.

Ak Writers Festival: Christos Tsiolkas and satanic Neighbours

Another Australian writer, Christos Tsiolkas, followed David Malouf in a Saturday session skilfully chaired by Charlotte Grimshaw.

Tsiolkas, who went on to win the Commonwealth Writers Prize later that night, said his novel, The Slap, was about the new wealthy middle-class of Australia, people who had a lot of money to buy possessions paralleled by a rise in greed and selfishness.

Greed is good had become the dominant ethos but how, he asked, can the adults communicate ethics to the younger generation? One example, he recalled, was when he was on a train in Melbourne where a group of schoolboys were using the most filthy language in front of an elderly lady who was clearly uncomfortable and humiliated. He eventually went up to them and asked them to tone it down. They turned on him.

Tsiolkas revealed that he, as a homosexual man growing up in a tight Greek family, felt he had to betray his family by coming out and the rift was damaging for many years.

When Grimshaw put it to him that there was a lot of sex in his books, whether gay or straight, much hilarity ensued. No matter how she tried to phrase it, a double entendre popped out of her mouth. Tsiolkas was delighted. So was the audience when he said The Slap has been described as the satanic version of Neighbours.

- NZ Herald

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