‘”We tell ourselves stories in order to live,” as the famous Joan Didion quote goes, and perhaps it’s our stories that keep us alive when we’re gone – a stab at immortality. But if a story cannot be told – if its last teller disappears beneath the last wave with the crumbling bowsprit – then the shape of its narrative is necessarily upended, incomplete. Who knows what has happened or where? Someone has to survive; the longboat or the yawl has to make it back. Otherwise the story sinks, forgotten, into the ocean.’
In ‘Mirror rim: Lost and found in the Abrolhos’, from Griffith Review 47: Looking West, Ashley Hay delivers a poetic account of her trip to the Abrolhos islands, off the coast of Geraldton. Her experiences were haunted and enriched by the natural beauty, the isolation, and the weight of the past – in particular, the infamous wreckage of the merchant ship Batavia.
Ashley Hay’s most recent novel, The Railwayman’s Wife (Allen & Unwin, 2013), won the 2013 Colin Roderick Award from the Foundation for Australian Literary Studies and the People’s Choice Award in the 2014 NSW Premier’s Prize. Her earlier books include The Body in the Clouds (Allen & Unwin, 2010), Gum: The Story of Eucalypts and Their Champions (Duffy & Snellgrove, 2002), and, as editor, Best Australian Science Writing 2014. Her short fiction and essays have appeared in publications including The Monthly, Creative Nonfiction, Best Australian Short Stories, Best Australian Essays and Best Australian Science Writing. In 2015 she received the second Australian Book Review/Dahl Trust Fellowship to write about eucalypts for the annual environment edition of ABR. Her most recent book, A Hundred Small Lessons (Allen & Unwin), was published in 2017.