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tv   HAR Dtalk  BBC News  January 3, 2019 4:30am-5:01am GMT

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that's partially shutdown the us government has finished without agreement. mr trump wants five billion dollars from congress for a border wall with mexico. it's an election promise, although he insisted during the campaign that mexico would pay. apple has warned investors that its latest revenue figures will be sharply lower than previously expected. the company said it hadn't foreseen the scale of the economic slowdown in some emerging markets, particularly china. consumers had also failed to upgrade to the latest versions of iphones as expected. nasa's revealed the first clear images of ultima thule, the most distant object yet visited by a spacecraft. they show an icy object which looks a bit like a snowman. it's about 33 kilometres long and it is floating more than six billion kilometres from earth. now it's time for one of hardtalk‘s highlights of 2018. in july, stephen sackur spoke to the acclaimed australian author tim winton. his latest novel, the shepherds hut, focused on a troubled young man wrestling with demons,
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and came at an opportune time, with the me too movement demanding change. is australia redefining what it means to be a good bloke? welcome to hardtalk, i'm stephen sackur. my guest today is an internationally acclaimed author whose prolific output of fiction is rooted deep in the soil and the shoreline of his native western australia, a land of harsh beauty, where life rarely comes easy. tim winton‘s latest novel, the shepherd's hut, focuses on a troubled young man wrestling with demons, and it comes at an opportune time, with the me too movement demanding an end to ingrained sexism, misogyny and toxic masculinity. is australia redefining what it means to be a good bloke? tim winton, welcome to hardtalk.
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thank you. you have travelled the world, you have even lived in europe, but it seems when you write, your writing, and your stories, always take you back home to western australia. why is that? i'm not sure. i think it's notjust what i know, but it's what i live and breathe, it just seems endlessly... it's just — there's more stories. there's more to write about. the older i get, the more i see in it. it seems like you almost feel the landscapes,
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the soil and the coastline, of course, because you write a great deal about the coast, it almost feels like it shapes your soul in a way. yeah, i think it's shaped my experience, certainly, and it's shaped my imagination. yeah, we live in a place where there's more landscape than people, and more landscape than culture. where, on the surface, it doesn't look like much is going on. right. but the closer you look... yeah, and if you stop, it's stopping. modern people, we're always hurtling around and you don't see anything because you're moving all the time. if you stop and look, stuff bubbles up out of what seems to be an empty and forbidding landscape and it's not what it appears. to those of us who don't live in australia, it is a pretty remote and forbidding place, in parts, western australia. and you've said in the past, you've said, you know, it is the wrong side of the wrong continent in the wrong hemisphere. you seem quite aware of how...
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you know, from the great literary salons of new york and london, how it's quite isolated. yeah, i was acutely aware of that as a younger writer. i knew that we were just so far away, out of mind, truly out of mind. so you're writing into a great sort of indifference. and the urge to leave, the urge to sort of pack up and join them was there. the pressure to do that, to leave your provincial origins and, you know, go to where the action is, is a pretty common story. certainly in australia it was a very common story in the past generation, you know, clive james and germaine greer, and bob hughes, people like that. a whole generation of successful australian authors. success was in the end rooted
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in london or new york or wherever, by going away. yes, and i wanted to go a different way. i loved where i was from, and i felt invested. i felt unable to just leave it behind for the sake of a career. i thought, well, if i'm into making art, if i'm into making stories and getting these imaginary characters to get up and stand on their hind legs and walk around the park, which is the strange mystery of art, it's a pretty unlikely business, you get to make things that shouldn't feel real, seem real. i wanted to do that from home. and it's the mix of the imaginative and the real that so strikes me about you, because when we talk about your rootedness and your determination to write about home rather than go away, it's also about the use of language. because in the novel i've just read, your new one, the shepherd's hut, you know, it's deeply vernacular, it is so aussie it's unbelievable, and you might think even for an english—speaking audience, some of it is actually quite difficult because it is so steeped in a particular kind of language. yeah, i guess my impulse to stay
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came from reading the americans, and reading the americans of the deep south, twain, faulkner, flannery o'connor, and they stayed. and they were deeply rooted. and make no apologies for it. no, they were fierce and defiant about their place, about their provincial situation, and about their vernacular language. and that was, you know... i mean i was at university for four years, but i think i learnt more from reading those provincial american writers, who just insisted on their own terms. and if people didn't like it, well, stuff it. that almost, without the blue language, which of course suffuses your latest book, that's sort of the attitude. ijust wrote down a couple of phrases that i love,
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they're so deeply of this book and your place. the young character, the troubled boy in the book, early on in the book he discovers his father's dead body, and he hates his father because his father's been violent and abusive, and he knows immediately, jack knows immediately that "the old turd was cactus", and that is a use of language which could only come from where you're from, and yet we all, who are not from there, i think in the course of it, we end up really appreciating your language. yeah, well, my experience as a reader, i'm reading these people from the south, and i didn't understand half of the words. i didn't know what was going on. you just go with the magic or the music of the language and you get carried on by the story. and you're not so fussed about what does that mean, but it sounds great, you know? and i was into the blues and jazz when i was younger. again, half of what's going on there i didn't have any idea about, but i loved the sound of it. but in the end, it's
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about backing yourself. just saying, well, you know, i could go the conventional route and leave and go, but i'll stay and see if i can make a stand here and see if you can write to the world on your own terms from your own, you know, to use a southern term, no—account place, writing about your own no—account people. yeah, and i guess what the artist does, whatever the form of art, is then try and find universality in the specific and the local, and what you've done, particularly with this latest one, but i think you've done it in other books too, is really address what happens to boys and young men, and what it means to be a man and why so many men, and particularly in, you know, the western australia that you describe, which is so harsh and so brutal, why so many men lead deeply troubled lives and are so damaged. yeah, and, you know, you realise after a while that you're in the company very often
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with men who are emotional infants. they're so unschooled emotionally, they're so incurious emotionally, they‘ re impoverished. was there ever a time when you, tim winton, now, looking back on it, felt that you were in that way impoverished or stunted in any way? no, i felt very fortunate to grow up in a house and a family where the women were strong, and you had to take notice of them, and you were on notice from them. but, you know, my father and other men that i knew were not constrained by the worst of the kind of role modelling that you see. it's very often, you see these boys replicating the mean, nasty, violent, contemptuous ideas, or patterns of behaviour, of their father. is the, loosely maybe, those of us who don't know australia
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terribly well, would characterise and stereotype as the macho bloke culture of australia? i think it's there in all developed cultures, it's there in all first world cultures, but it's quite prevalent in settler cultures. you see it very vividly in parts of the states, parts of southern africa, parts of australia. you know, a little bit of it isjust an historical legacy of the settler ethos, which is to come, claim, invade, dig in, consolidate and defend. so it's a closed fist and a closed heart, a closed mind. they all seem to go together. so there's a little bit of that. and the idea that you'd valorise someone who is
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tough, strong, silent... and also the sense that boys, as they grow up, you know, as they leave childhood and go into adolescence, puberty, they're encouraged to sort of close down their own emotional side, their empathetic side. and that's a tragedy. i mean, because it's notjust miserable for women and makes women feel unsafe, and girls feel unsafe, and disrespected, it's bad for boys and men because they live impoverished lives. they have such diminished access to language to express strong feelings. i mean, we all have strong feelings. somehow, when you're a boy, they take away your licence to express them in certain ways. you know, you're not allowed to cry, you're not allowed to hold anybody‘s hand, you're not allowed to show any softness, even charity is soft, "that's a bit gay", you know, you see that in the playground. this book, as it happens,
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and it's coincidental, because it's actually five years since your last novel, so i'm guessing it took a while write. i certainly wasn't writing this into the me too moment. it's come out and it's addressing this point directly about what happens to boys as they become men and how they deal with a culture which often encourages them to, as we've just discussed, close down emotionally. it's come out at a time when there is so much discussion, thanks to the me too movement, everything that's happened in the last few months, about gender relationships, about women demanding different kinds of behaviours from men, and you have chosen to, sort of, in a way, embrace that political discussion by going on a tour, which i think you headlined "tender heart, sons of brutes." so have you made a conscious decision to become, sort of, part of this discussion? i figured that once we realised the cultural moment that the book was inadvertently being published into, it felt like you had
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to address it. you know, it was gonna be a topic of discussion around the book. people were gonna see things in the book and want to talk about them. so i just figured, yeah, maybe it's incumbent on me to address it head—on and to find a way to get men, in particular, to listen and attend to the ways in which their lives are being diminished. you know, men are the beneficiaries of patriarchy. no question. but even though they profit from it, their lives, ultimately, are poorer. and i guess i've been trying to appeal to the idea that, you know, women have made enormous strides in my lifetime, and that's something to celebrate. they're reaching
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for what's their due. they are demanding justice and they're demanding changes behaviour and changes of legislation, changes of outlook. and that's a terrific thing. but men haven't made equivalent strides to change themselves, because... but what about you as an artist? because there have been a few female critics, mostly in australia, who've looked at your books, and, you know, they're extraordinarily well—received in australia, but some women have said, you know, tim winton‘s women characters lack the agency that his male characters do, the books in the end are really about men, and women are often victims, women are usually very decent and very good in your books, but stuff is happening to them, done by men, and on the most literal level, you know, you write quite a lot about surfers, and surfing's a big deal in your life, but you've never had a lead female character who's a very active surfer, for example, you know... i had one that was a solo sailor.
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i've written plenty of strong characters. and i... do you reject that notion that in the end you're more about men than you are about women? no, i don't reject that. i think that's... that's not something i should have to apologise for. i'm writing about men because i know about men. and i'm also writing about social conditions that apply in the places where i live. and the outcomes are... the books and the storylines are reflective of the reality. i mean, the temptation is to write what should be, or could be, but i'm writing in a realist tradition, i'm writing about what actually happens in the small, redneck communities that i know so much about. this is life. to somehow add... to somehow embroider that would be insincere and inauthentic. if i was writing about
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the inner—city, the storylines would be different. i'm writing about places and communities, and so i'm subject to the terms of trade geographically, ecologically and culturally that apply. i mean, there are strong women in my stories, and lots of weak men in my stories. lots of terrible things happen to women in my stories, but the worst of what happens in my stories always happens to men. one thing i take from your stories, several of them, particularly the shepherd's hut, is the impassioned plea, desire to see male role models for young males, you know, for young boys. in this book, as it happens, there's a defrocked priest,
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who the main protagonist, the young boy, finds in the middle of these salt flats in this most remote place in western australia and this priest, fintan macgillis, he offers an enormous amount to this boy in terms of wisdom and support and guidance. did you have such a figure in your life? probably not anyone like fintan macgillis, this spoiled priest. there were older people that i looked up to who i felt observed by, cared for by, people who were not even family members. sometimes it's about neighbourhood or people that you know... what about church, one of the key figures in your life, i know from reading a lot about your family background, this extraordinary evangelical who came and helped your family when your father had a very serious traffic accident and almost died and this man entered your lives, you didn't know him from before, but he offered to help... yeah, he just knocked on the door and my mum couldn't get dad into the bath to wash him after he'd finally got out of hospital, after being in a coma for weeks.
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he came home very diminished, a diminished version of himself, but he was still too much bloke for mum to get into the bath, out of bed, and into the bath. yeah, he just showed up and he used to just carry my dad to the bath and sit with him and they used to talk. dad had always been a man of momentum. he was a traffic cop, rode a bsa motorbike, very fast and gave tickets to people who did the same! a perverse part of thejob, you know! but dad was dad was always going quick. when he had his accident, he was stopped in so many ways and he said he had a lot of time to think, that he was using that time in other ways before his accident. in the company of this lovely, gentle man, you know, who was every part and australian male as my father and all the other caricatures australian blokes are, but somehow there was a part of his life where he felt licensed to be gentle and tender. and a lot of that was to do with his faith? i'm sure... he was an evangelical, your parents, i know, became firm believers... as a result, yeah. in terms of modelling for me, it was watching a man... seeing, you know, a man do gentle, quiet, nurturing things and for that to be honourable, for that to be worthy, and so as a little kid... this was the 1960s, we didn't come from an educated background.
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it was working—class. it was pretty hard—bitten, really, in terms of our relations with one another. i saw there were other ways of being a bloke. my dad was... despite the fact he was a cop, he was also a gentle, nurturing sort of bloke. it was pretty hard—bitten, really, in terms of our relations with one another. i saw there were other ways of being a bloke. my dad was... despite the fact he was a cop, he was also a gentle, nurturing sort of bloke. interesting you put it that way. "i saw other ways to be a bloke." i guess to this day that runs through your life. you haven't, sort of, followed the conventional route in lots of different ways, not least because you've always talked about your spirituality and your acceptance of, sort of, a sense of mystery in the world and being at peace with the notion that there's something out there, which, again, maybe i'm being stereotypical, but it seems to me it isn't front and centre in a lot of australian culture — that acceptance of the spiritual. no, it's a deeply
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irreligious culture. planted on the top of the most religious continent on the globe. does that make you a weirdo to some australians? yeah, i'm sure it does. we were weirdos when we were fundamentalist evangelicals in the ‘60s after my father's accident. it does you some good to be a weirdo. you learn it's ok to swim against the current. and that your entire being and worth and status doesn't rely on your reputation with the mob.
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that was a life lesson as well. you know, it's a funny thing. australia... if you get outside the city and you get under this incredible canopy of stars, all the kind of patina of civilisation, domestication, things that you think are important, they melt away pretty quickly and you are subject to, i don't know, grandiose thoughts, big thoughts, inner whispers in a way that you wouldn't be if you stayed home. i think we get that in your writing, that degree to which you connect the natural world in all its wonder to something bigger beyond ourselves. i want to end by actually getting you to think a little bit about what australia means to you, because it clearly means a very great deal. you've become a very active environmental campaigner and you've given prize money from some of your fiction awards direct to conservation efforts to reefs out in the ocean near where you've always surfed and swam. how important is that notion that you're woven into australia in a way that maybe the early australians extracted wealth from australia, they didn't really see it as their land, but you see it very much as your land? yeah, i think over my adult life
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i've come to understand that i belong to it. that the country makes claims and you and you have responsibilities to it. sorry to interrupt, it seems to me you feel a great affinity with aboriginal australians in that way? i think i've learned some things. there's 60,000 years of wisdom, ecological and cultural and religious wisdom from just being on that very demanding island. there's things for us to learn from our indigenous countrymen. ijust think that... you know, the old way of living, of treating the country as a product, as something to be exploited, taken from... it's about the relationship. i think we've learned we're in a relationship with the natural world and the place we're from, and that means we have privileges and responsibilities, as we would in a family or in a community.
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do you think australia has fundamentally changed ? does australia generally get that in a way that maybe it didn't a generation ago? i think that... when i was a schoolboy, we were still slaughtering whales. it's in my lifetime we've gone from being a whaling nation with a turtle fishery... it's amazing how the country has changed in my lifetime. you know, 50 something years. i think we're changing. whether we're changing fast enough to meet the challenges we're faced
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with, in terms of global warming and the state of our rivers and, as you mentioned, our reefs. i think the way my grandchildren consider their place on our island is very different to the way my grandparents and their parents felt. life happens in a strange way. you don't understand change often until retrospect. things are happening around you and changing in a way... even if you're a campaigner like me, you spend half your time shouting at the television, you know, and shouting at the sky, frightening the dog because there's no change, it feels like nothing's moving. but then you get surprised. some little thing turns, some little cog rolls over and, you know, whoever would have thought that, you know, australians would've voted against a republic and for gay marriage inside one generation? tim winton, thank you for joining me on hardtalk. good morning.
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well, we've certainly been chasing cloud amounts around the country at the moment, but my new year's resolution was to stay on the optimistic side with a glass half full. so, for the next few days, yes, it will stay chilly, but i'm optimistic that we'll see a little more in the way of sunshine coming through. but frost and freezing fog patches could be an issue first thing in the morning. now, the uk is sandwiched right in the middle, between this mild air sitting out in the atlantic and colder air across eastern europe at the moment. there is an area of high pressure
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across the uk and circulating around the high, the wind direction always driving in a little more cloud close to the coasts. so, just come further inland, that's where we'll see the clearest of the skies. that's where we're likely to be the best of the sunshine as well. if you're up and off early on this morning, a chilly start, as you can see, right through the spine of the country really. the blue tones denoting those temperatures below freezing. well below freezing in some places. it may be as low as —5 and —6 degrees in more rural spots. so, it's going to be a cold and a frosty start to thursday morning. that's where the best slice of the sunshine is likely to be, though. along those east coasts, we'll have more cloud just driving in. with a south—westerly flow out to the west as well, a little more cloud and a little more moisture, and there, we could see the problem with some fog forming a little later on. top temperatures, though, for thursday afternoon — 3 to 7 degrees the high. now, as we go into the evening hours, that's when we could potentially see some freezing fog forming. if that happens, it may well be slow to clear away. the real cold air and the stormy weather at the moment is across eastern europe.
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we've seen some heavy rain and even snow at lower levels across greece and turkey at the moment, and that bitterly cold air is sitting not only across the south—east mediterranean, but it's moving all the way up generally through eastern europe over the next few days. the yellow tones — i'm not going to say mild, but something a little less cold across portugal, spain, france and the uk. but if we get some freezing fog first thing on friday morning, it may be slow to clear away, and that could have quite an impact on the temperatures. so, again, there will be some sunshine around after a cold and frosty start on friday. if the freezing fog lingers, and favoured spots for that are going to be central and southern england, well, then, those temperatures only at around 3 or 4 degrees. a little milder the further west we go. this quiet theme of weather looks likely to continue into the weekend. 0n the whole, it will be largely dry but, again, we're going to be chasing cloud amounts around. take care.
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this is the briefing. i'm sally bundock. our top story: all change in washington — democrats prepare to take power in congress as the government shutdown continues. scientists say they've discovered the source of a cholera outbreak in yemen, one of the worst epidemics in history. 0ne giant leap for china's space programme as it successfully lands a probe on the far side of the moon. and poison apple for investors as the tech giant slashes forecasts, saying the slowdown in china is worse than it thought. we will be live to the region as those companies that supply apple
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