GABO DJARA by B. Wongar


Email this review


Wongar reiterates his despairing exploitation song (Walg. Karan) in an unsparing allegorical novel. Gabo Djara, a green, immortal and measurably radioactive ant, tours various corridors of power in the years and days preceding the nuclear apocalypse. Gabo Djara is the spiritual leader of the aboriginaltribes of West Arnhem Land, Australia. awakened to rebirth by the disruption of his totemic land. Uranium has been discovered in the hills of Namanama, and the balanda (white men) are vying with one another to tear down the mountains. Gabo Djara's disjointed path takes him, among other places, to the wig of the Speaker of Australian Parliament, the innards of a computer, a feast of money in a Swiss bank vault, and the White House breakfast table (the preoccupations of world leaders, thrown at us, tiny and troubling, from ant's-eye view, provide intervals of savage satire), all the time longing for the smell of his homeland and sadly witnessing evidence of its demise. He even takes a meeting with the white man's god, in hopes of his intervening, but finds him impotent, trapped in a barrel in a nuclear power plant. Gabo Djara dutifully quests on, to an almost merciful nuclear finale. Wongar juxtaposes the physical world of an ant (the communicative tingling of his antennae, his crop distractingly empty or achingly full) with the alarming global vision of a center that cannot hold. While the form allows little character or plot, the depth of tribal feeling (memories of the smell and look of the land, of the magical teamwork of the different spirits) and the anger at its destruction are conveyed with an urgent blend of music and rage.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1987
Publisher: Dodd, Mead