Miles Franklin's Brilliant CareerMay 27, 2014

Miles Franklin, one of the greatest writers of her time, wrote a book that became an instant success. But she was distressed by it, such that she withdrew the novel from publication until after her death.

"My Brilliant Career" was about an aspiring author looking for romance. Many people were misled by it, as this kind of romanticism was the one that artists were searching all their lives. Those familiar with their biographies would notice a pattern, where they threw caution to the wind at a young age, lived the life to the fullest, but under hard condition. In this regard, Paris was THE place where these people went through a rite of passage. (Where can you find a city that emphasise inspiration, subjectivity, and primacy of the individual?) Miles Franklin's case was unique, as she grew up in Brindabella Range, a mountain range separating Canberra and New South Wales.

During the turn of the twentieth century, the place was more of a wilderness, not to the fancy of the likes of Franklin. The peaks, made distinct by granites and metamorphic rocks, looked vast and limitless. This may have played tricks on the mind of Sybylla Melvin, the novel's heroine, such that she turned down the marriage proposal of a certain Harry Beecham. Domesticity would prevent her from pursuing a writing career, fearing she wouldn't achieve the brilliant career she desired. (Gillian Armstrong, one of the great Australian filmmakers, made the big-screen adaptation, with Judy Davis and Sam Neill playing Sybylla and Harry respectively.)

The book ended in an uncertain note, reflecting Franklin's yearnings, one of which was something may happen to her. She did went to USA and Great Britain, spending many years honing her (writing) craft, while doing jobs to make ends meet. All that time, she was searching for romance. When her father passed away, she returned to Australia and became active in promoting literature (in that part of the world).

"My Brilliant Career" was semi-autobiographical, which elicited reaction that Franklin never imagined. She found romance when she decided to dedicate her life to her craft, but it was hard to tell if she became aware of it. After all, most artists think that they haven't done enough, being their own worst critics. But for Franklin, Australia's landscape may have shaped her way of thinking. Feminists admired the author, as she lived the life she wanted to.

Franklin's greatest legacy is the establishment of a literary award in her name, to honor a piece of writing that shows Australia in all its phases. The recipients are some of the greatest talents from Down Under. (Thea Astley for "The Slow Natives" and "The Acolyte", Thomas Keneally for "Bring Larks and Heroes" and "Three Cheers for the Paraclete", Peter Carey for "Bliss" and "Oscar and Lucinda".) This told a lot about the lady, committed to the search - and development - of a uniquely Australian form of literature. This wasn't an easy thing to do, so the literary journals, writers' organisations, and support of fellow writers. Hers was no pipe dream.

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