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Tasmanian devilry

Has Richard Flanagan written the "first masterpiece of the 21st century?"

If, for much of its formative history, Australia feared becoming the runt continent of the world then Tasmania, the diminutive island at its southeastern corner, imagined itself as the Australian orphan-a footnote to an addendum. The island has long endured mockery, even from Irishmen. In Gulliver’s Travels, Swift placed it somewhere in the vicinity of Lilliput, as if it bordered on unreality. In Finnegans Wake, Joyce riddled it as “tossmania”-a nasty winter ailment.

What gets up Tasmanian novelist Richard Flanagan’s crack, though, is not so much old world scorn as the mainland Australian intelligentsia and its Europhiliac notions of high…

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