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Peter Salmon Web Site Introduction Welcome to my website, which has everything you need to know about me. That's right, everything.

Pensive Peter Salmon

Proof of Pudding


What discerning judges have said about The Coffee Story

'It's been a while since I read a first novel that felt as universally accomplished as Peter Salmon's The Coffee Story' - Toby Litt

'I was constantly intoxicated by a sense of desire & loss' - Jake Arnott

'Wild and raucous... an extraordinarily accomplished debut' - Niall Griffiths

'Reminiscent of Phillip Roth's Everyman. But it's much, much funnier' - Sydney Morning Herald

'An exceptional debut' - Martyn Bedford

Hard Sell

Now in sexy orange!

Peter Salmon is an Australian writer living in the UK. His first novel, The Coffee Story (Sceptre, 2011), was a New Statesman Book of the Year. He has written frequently for Australian TV and radio and for broadsheets including the Guardian and the Sydney Review of Books. The Blue News, his satirical column about books and publishing, was subsequently collected and published by Melbourne University Press as Uncorrected Proof  (2005).  He has received Writer’s Awards from the Arts Council of England and the Arts Council of Victoria, Australia.  Formerly Centre Director of the John Osborne/The Hurst Arvon Centre (2006-2012), he also teaches creative writing, most recently at Pembroke College, Cambridge and Liverpool John Moores University.

From ‘The Origins of Totalitarianism’ by Hannah Arendt

origins‘Masses are not held together by a consciousness of common interest and they lack that specific class articulateness which is expressed in determined, limited, and obtainable goals. The term masses applies only where we deal with people who either because of sheer numbers, or indifference, or a combination of both, cannot be integrated into any organization based on common interest, into political parties or municipal governments or professional organizations or trade unions. Potentially, they exist in every country and form the majority of those large numbers of neutral, politically indifferent people who never join a party and hardly ever go to the polls. It was characteristic of the rise of the Nazi movement in Germany and of the Communist movements in Europe after 1930 that they recruited their members from this mass of apparently indifferent people whom all other parties had given up as too apathetic or too stupid for their attention. The result was that the majority of their membership consisted of people who never before had appeared on the political scene. This permitted the introduction of entirely new methods into political propaganda, and indifference to the arguments of political opponents; these movements not only placed themselves outside and against the party system as a whole, they found a membership that had never been reached, never been “spoiled” by the party system. Therefore they did not need to refute opposing arguments and consistently preferred methods which ended in death rather than persuasion, which spelled terror rather than conviction. They presented disagreements as invariably originating in deep natural, social, or psychological sources beyond the control of the individual and therefore beyond the power of reason. This would have been a shortcoming only if they had sincerely entered into competition with other parties; it was not if they were sure of dealing with people who had reason to be equally hostile to all parties.

The success of totalitarian movements among the masses meant the end of two illusions of democratically ruled countries in general and of European nation-states and their party system in particular. The first was that the people in its majority had taken an active part in government and that each individual was in sympathy with one’s own or somebody else’s party. On the contrary, the movements showed that the politically neutral and indifferent masses could easily be the majority in a democratically ruled country, that therefore a democracy could function according to rules which are actively recognized by only a minority. The second democratic illusion exploded by the totalitarian movements was that these politically indifferent masses did not matter, that they were truly neutral and constituted no more than the inarticulate backward setting for the political life of the nation. Now they made apparent what no other organ of public opinion had ever been able to show, namely, that democratic government had rested as much on the silent approbation and tolerance of the indifferent and inarticulate sections of the people as on the articulate and visible institutions and organizations of the country. Thus when the totalitarian movements invaded Parliament with their contempt for parliamentary government, they merely appeared inconsistent: actually, they succeeded in convincing the people at large that parliamentary majorities were spurious and did not necessarily correspond to the realities of the country, thereby undermining the self-respect and the confidence of governments which also believed in majority rule rather than in their constitutions.

Both the early apathy and the later demand for monopolistic dictatorial direction of the nation’s foreign affairs had their roots in a way and philosophy of life so insistently and exclusively centered on the individual’s success or failure in ruthless competition that a citizen’s duties and responsibilities could only be felt to be a needless drain on his limited time and energy. These bourgeois attitudes are very useful for those forms of dictatorship in which a “strong man” takes upon himself the troublesome responsibility for the conduct of public affairs…’

Georges Perec at the University of Queensland

perecI was fascinated to find out recently that the brilliant French writer, Georges Perec, author of books such as Life A Users Manual and A Void (a novel written entirely without the letter ‘e’) spent a month as writer-in-residence at Australia’s University of Queensland in late 1981, a few months before his death.

I’ve been lucky enough to talk to a number of people who were part of his visit, and who shared their memories of this unique writer.

The article is published by the Sydney Review of Books here.

A Fortunate Man

fortunate manIn light of recent events, this passage from John Berger’s A Fortunate Man: The Story of a Country Doctor, has been playing over and over in my mind. Quoting it in full probably doesn’t count as fair use, so if everyone could do me a favour and buy the book I’d feel I had done my bit. Plus, it’s a truly great book.

“There are large sections of the English working and middle class who are inarticulate as the result of wholesale cultural deprivation. They are deprived of the means of translating what they know into thoughts which they can think. They have no examples to follow in which words clarify experience. Their spoken, proverbial traditions have long been destroyed: and, although they are literate in the strictly technical sense, they have not had the opportunity of discovering the tradition of a written cultural heritage.

“Yet it is more than a question of literature. Any general culture acts as a mirror which enables the individual to recognize himself – or at least recognize those parts of himself which are socially permissible. The culturally deprived have far fewer ways of recognizing themselves. A great deal of their experience – especially emotional and introspective experience – remains unnamed for them. Their chief means of self-expression is consequently through action …

“The easiest – and sometimes only possible – form of conversation is that which concerns or describes action. It is then not the experience of the speakers which is discussed, but the nature of an entirely exterior mechanism or event – a motor-car engine, a football match, a draining system or the workings of some committee. Such subjects, which preclude anything directly personal, supply the content of most of the conversations being carried on by men over twenty-five in England today.”

Much to think about.

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