Posted by: Lisa Hill | April 13, 2018

Sensational Snippets: A Sand Archive, by Gregory Day

For a certain kind of reader, Gregory Day’s new novel A Sand Archive, is sublime.  I am savouring this book. I haven’t wanted to stop reading to share a Sensational Snippet.  But this one must be shared because it is so pertinent to the way we live today:

FB Herschell is a young civil engineer visiting Paris in 1968, to study sand dunes.  One of his more laconic Country Roads Board colleagues working with him on the stabilisation of the iconic Great Ocean Road has mocked him about this destination:

As FB was shyly explaining how his trip was being partly funded by a French government scholarship, Don Bryant quipped: ‘A foreign scholarship to go to sand school, eh? Sounds a bit like travelling to Scotland to study kangaroos.  You do know there are a few grains of the stuff around here, Frank?’ (p.104)

Bryant is not alone in his amusement that the repository for the study of sand dunes was in France.  France and its great writers, thinkers and theorists in 1960s anti-intellectual Australia were not held in high esteem.  FB’s interest in French stuff in the insular 1960s would have marked him out as odd, if he’d dared to share it.  Today, it is not quite the same:

Such views persist, though like so much these days they sit as repressed ballast in Australia’s prosperous ship.  On deck we move about freely, take in the scenery, the music, the madeleines and the Armagnac.  We can agree openly, even in a pub, with Jean Baudrillard when he says that the whole arc of western culture was geared to arrive at a moment when all our material desires – clothing, architecture, sex, art, cinema, cuisine, travel, sport, education – would be satisfied, and that we reached that moment some years ago but did not realise it, so that now we are merely continuing in the automatic pursuit of the very things we already have.  In FB’s prime years though, in the years when he was beginning to think about sand, theories such as that were only spoken of in enclaves that he did not frequent.  (p.55)

from A Sand Archive by Gregory Day, Picador (Pan Macmillan) 2018, ISBN: 9781760552145.

If you love a book that makes you stop and think, get yourself a copy: A Sand Archive


  1. […] I said in the Sensational Snippet that I posted yesterday,  the central character FB Herschell is a young civil engineer who, tasked with stabilising the […]


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