Francesca Jurate Sasnaitis
The University of Western Australia
Summerlands is part of a larger work, which comprises the creative component of a doctoral thesis. Both the novel-in-progress and the exegesis aim to investigate the complex interrelationship between image and text. This paper introduces and contextualises the first chapter of the novel with a brief exegetical statement.
The novel incorporates memoir, fiction, folktales and visual material, and is based on my family’s experience as World War II refugees from Lithuania to Australia. Elaborated through the microcosm of a dysfunctional family, its main themes are the dissonance between intention and utterance; the burden of memory; nostalgia for vanished worlds; and the inability of people who have survived extreme loss to relinquish the source of their trauma. The action of the novel takes place during a twenty-four hour period from the dawn of January 18, 1975, but subverts chronology by a conflation of memories dating back to the early years of the twentieth century.
The first chapter introduces two Lithuanian families who share a holiday house on the Summerlands Estate, Phillip Island, off the coast of Victoria. Segues between points of view of various characters are facilitated by the deployment of third-person narration. In this chapter, tensions that will be unravelled in subsequent chapters are indicated by a segue from Rasa to her daughter Jūratė’s emotional landscape.
The exegetical statement suggests that the image-embedded prose fictions of W.G. Sebald are a primary influence on the structure of Summerlands, and proposes the idea that images are integral to the poetics and semantics of the text, which deals with trauma, displacement, and the fragmentary nature of memory.