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House of the Flight-helpers
by Philomena van Rijswijk
‘The people of Incognita have walled themselves in…’
House of the Flight-helpers by Tasmanian author Philomena van Rijswijk is a strange and satirical narrative, a mythological mosaic of horrors, feather phobias, dead saints, clay flutes, terrible birds, Border Monkeys, forbidden zones and unsettling forebodings. It casts the reader into the future, a future left trammelled by the glacial passage of xenophobia and exclusion. It is a parable of sorts, and considers the biggest questions and insecurities of our age, one of the most poignant of which is: when we exclude the outsider, are we, in fact, imprisoning and impoverishing ourselves?
Philomena van Rijswijk lives in Tasmania, the ‘south island’ of Australia. Her last novel, The World as a Clock-face, was published by Penguin. Her poems and short stories have been published in collections and literary journals in Australia, Ireland and India. The author’s work was included in Best Australian Stories 2002 (Black Inc) and Best Australian Poetry 2005 (UQP). Some of her stories have been translated into Hindi by Dr Aruna Sitesh and published in Delhi. Her poetry collection, Bread of the Lost, was published by Walleah Press in 2013. In 2016, she was awarded the Masterton District Fellowship, spending three weeks at the New Zealand Pacific Studio at Mt Bruce in New Zealand. Philomena lives alone with her two budgerigars, Neftali and Mathilde, in the south east of the island. She has five adult children and eight grandchildren.
Cover image by Watanabe Shotei aka Watanabe Seitei (1851–1918)
"The author adds, 'It was even said that a good storyteller could drag the full moon with the seductiveness of his tongue.' This is a moon-draggingly good work of fantasy worldbuilding." Publishers Weekly
"Van Rijswijk manages the complexity of dystopia beautifully. Each page bristles with unlikely details, strange insights into the horror within and outside the city colliding with beauty, with trust and the possibility of connection. Sentences carry great weight, repaying close reading to quarry out the references and possibilities they contain." Sarah Tanburn, Horla
"An astonishing book of many merits for readers of intelligent dystopia." Aurealis, issue 122
Copyright Tartarus Press 2021