Christopher John Koch (kosh) is a well-known contemporary Australian novelist whose works have been particularly influential in setting the terms for a cultural relationship between Australia and Asia. Koch was born in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, in 1932. His childhood on Tasmania, an island to the south of the mainland Australia continent, was instrumental in shaping his artistic perspective. Tasmania, more like England in landscape and climate than the rest of Australia, was nonetheless doubly isolated, from both the English colonizer and Australia itself. Tasmania’s isolated beauty influenced Koch’s vivid nature descriptions even as it made him aware of the need for Australia to be connected to other nations.
Koch began as a poet, and indeed his poems based on T’ang dynasty Chinese poetry have won praise as being among the most accomplished of any Western attempts to master Chinese poetic form, but he soon decided to concentrate his talents on a novel. Koch’s first novel, The Boys in the Island, is a lyrical novel of growing up. As Koch’s young male protagonists experience disappointment in love, they realize both their own marginality and the potential they have for future achievement. It was a natural step for Koch to move from the Tasmania-mainland contrast to the Australia-Asia one, which he did in Across the Sea Wall. This novel, more ambitious in length and scope than Koch’s first, resembles a contemporaneous American novel, John Updike’s Rabbit, Run (1961), in being told exclusively in the present tense. Chronicling the anguished relationship of an Australian youth with a glamorous Eastern European woman, the novel’s plot interested critics less than the fact that much of the work is set in India, providing Koch with an opportunity to bring an element of Hindu spirituality into the book. This feature instantly made Koch one of the best-known Australian writers in India, but it befuddled Australian reviewers not yet...
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