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    So Much Water, so Close to Home: The 2017 PPAA Conference Panel Presentation

    A Psychoanalytic Exploration of Raymond Carver’s Short-story and its Creative Adaptation and Transformation by Australian Artists into Film and Song.

    Anne Jeffs

    Introduction: Anne Jeffs

    The idea for this exploration of film, short story and song was conceived in a maelstrom of stresses and creative ideas occurring in my work as a co-scientific chair of the 2016 PPAA conference, the theme of which was “When the Centre Does Not Hold”. As can occur with such events, a series of happenings left us at the 11th hour one paper short. In addition, it seemed particularly important to represent the Indigenous experience given the theme of the conference, suggestive as it was of individual and social trauma, but we had not yet been successful in achieving this.

    Our various attempts to have Indigenous issues represented ​—​ even an early thought of holding the conference in the red Centre of Uluru ​—​ had not come to fruition. I was bothered by both the literal and the symbolic gap in our program, especially given that constitutional reform to include recognition of indigenous people was being addressed in the wider society this year.

    It felt to me that to proceed with an Australasian psychoanalytic psychotherapy conference that explored the issues of trauma and dissociation at an individual and societal level, and NOT represent the trauma at the centre of our history would be to turn a blind eye in a most egregious way. It was from this line of thought that the film “Jindabyne’, with themes of turning a blind eye and indigenous-coloniser relations, came to mind. Following this initial idea of Jindabyne, I then remembered the inspiration for this film: Raymond Carver’s 1975 short story, So much water, so close to home. My mind was then taken to Australian singer- song writer, Paul Kelly’s song Everything Turns to White, which was also inspired by the same story. These various associations and links led me to conceive the idea of a panel of PPAA members to explore the powerful themes in these interrelated texts. The three invited panellists were directed for inspiration towards the approaches of David Stratton and Margaret Pomeranz (ex-ABC) from At the Movies, and Jennifer Byrnes and her crew at The Book Club (ABC), and to explore the texts around the conference theme “When the Centre Cannot Hold”, especially from a psychoanalytic point of view.

    Raymond Carver’s 1975 short story, So much water, so close to home, tells the tale of a fishing trip unexpectedly gone wrong by the unwelcome discovery of a dead woman’s body. The fishermen’s response to this discovery (they end up tethering her in the river and continue with their leisure) and the ramifications of this response, structures the majority of the story. We witness the slow excavation of a marriage and the strong propensity of some involved in the event to want to return to business as usual, versus the sense for others that nothing can ever be the same. The key question in relation to the second stance is whether permanent break-down is the only option or whether mourning, reparation and transformation might just be possible.

    Two Australian artists were captivated enough by this short story to make their own creative adaptations. In 1989, song-writer Paul Kelly wrote ‘Everything Turns to White’, and Ray Lawrence (director) and Beatrix Christian (script writer) in 2006 produced the film Jindabyne. This last adaptation further layers the metaphor of the men fishing over the dead woman’s body, by making her a young Indigenous woman. Issues around Indigenous- non-Indigenous relations; male and female relations; trauma lying just beneath the surface of things; identification with the aggressor versus introjective identification with the victim are all present in these stories.

    Participants in the session were encouraged, but not required, to read, listen to and view these three versions of the same story prior to this session. Audience participation was welcomed. Readers will find that engaging with the three texts referred to may enhance their experience of these papers.

    Audience members responded with enthusiasm and thoughtfulness to the Panel response and discussion. Poignantly, given the difficulty we had had in ensuring that Indigenous issues were represented at the conference, the Welcome to Country did not occur at the beginning of the conference, as the invited guest did not turn up and was unable to be contacted. Feeling the loss of this, as if our Centre could not quite hold, at the end of this panel presentation we decided to show a clip of the Smoking Ceremony held for the dead indigenous woman in the film Jindabyne. We learnt the next day that our indigenous guest had been unable to attend due to Sorry Business.



    Anne Jeffs

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