James Cristina was born in Malta. His parents migrated to Australia in the late sixties and he grew up in Melbourne. He has taught English in Australia, Malta, England, the U.S., Jordan, Bahrain, Switzerland, Belgium, South Korea and Oman. He holds a Ph.D. in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia.
Antidote to a Curse
Antidote to a Curse follows Silvio Portelli, a writer and teacher who has returned from his travels in Europe. The novel straddles two worlds: On the one hand, it is set against the backdrop of 1990s Melbourne and delves into Silvio’s encounters with the people he comes across, including his eccentric landlady, and his own relationship with mortality as he awaits the results of an HIV test. On the other, it shifts to Herzegovina, a region introduced to Silvio by a Bosnian immigrant, Zlatko. Their subsequent conversations shape Silvio’s thoughts and, as a result, his new novel.
Transit Lounge publishes some of Australia’s most daring, inventive novels and Antidote to a Curse is no exception. Blending the Bosnian war, an impending AIDS diagnosis, life in 1990s inner Melbourne, giant aviaries and talking cats, Antidote is more of a Soviet-era Eastern European experimental novel than what you’d normally expect from staid, realist Australia. That being said, there is a nod to the traditions of realism in the richly wrought depiction of inner-Melbourne circa 1990 that pays homage to the Greek quarter and some iconic haunts. It’s hard to find any sense of stability—or often, to know what it is you are reading—as Cristina’s narrative shifts and changes under you, but that queasy, feverish feeling of moving ground is what makes this story so rewarding. An exciting new voice and a quietly ambitious book that resurrects the philosophical spectres of desire and trauma, displacement and longing—the curse and … the Antidote.