My journey to Overland: the politics subject I never took

Six years ago I saw Overland for the first time on a bookshelf in Readings. ‘Progressive culture’ were the refreshing words that stood out, a vast contrast to the words ‘shareholder value’ being hammered into me as a corporate drone programmer.

Yes, that’s right everyone, I was once one of ‘them’ [evil cackle].

It was the closest I had been to literature in the nine years since I graduated high school. My reading had been reduced from Shakespeare and Jane Austen to mind-numbing textbooks like ‘Java Programming Advanced concepts’. I was starving for literature. I don’t recall any of the articles I flicked through on that day in Readings, but I remember being surprised by the content – it was full of my Dad’s radical theories, theories I found interesting but dismissed as conspiracy. After all, the Herald Sun or The Age never published articles even remotely close to his views. But here was an entire journal dedicated to Dad – very strange. There was even a word for it: The Left.

I didn’t buy Overland that day but I started taking Dad a little more seriously.

‘Dad,’ I would say, ‘America had to invade Iraq – Saddam was a dictator – he killed so many people – and what about the weapons of mass destruction?’ Comments like this would have him shaking his head, distraught at my naivety. There would be no escape from the lecture until I understood.

‘You dink if dey want to kill Saddam dey could no kill him anoder way?’

‘Well why did they invade then?’

‘Oil – everyding is for oil.’

‘America is a democracy – they protect the world.’

‘Democracy?’ he sneered. ‘Der is no thing ‘democracy’ – democracy is to control de people – to create fear in de people.’

‘So why don’t they say that on the news?’

News?’ he would retort. ‘Everyding on de news is propaganda.’

‘What’s that?’ I was surprised he knew such fancy words.

‘How I explain dis to you? You no understand.’ This was how most of our political discussions ended – Dad, walking away, frustrated he couldn’t articulate himself further. There’s always been a gap between what I understood and what Dad could teach – I only know so much Greek and he only knows so much English.

It was literature that saved my damned soul from the depths of corporate hell. A few years after seeing Overland the creativity I kept buried for almost a decade bubbled up and overflowed. I started writing my novel Misplaced in 2005. Hand in hand with this creativity was my need to be informed about politics and the world. It was too late for an arts degree.

Overland bridged the gap.  Overland is my politics subject.

I would read the blog but I was too self-conscious to post comments (now that I blog for Overland I wish more people would comment!). I purchased issues of Overland and attended some of the public lectures. Dad and I would discuss politics more and more but our conversations finished with him satisfied I understood. Each issue of Overland educates me, challenges my views, and I want to be challenged – it’s the only way to learn. But Overland isn’t just about politics – it publishes a variety of fiction and non-fiction. Overland informs my writing.

When I was accepted into the Overland master class I couldn’t believe it. But what astounded me more was Rjurik giving up his weekend to teach a bunch of progressive writers because that’s what he believed in. The people that contribute to Overland don’t do it for the money – there is no money – it’s because they shudder to think of a world without Overland. There would be no place for progressive writers to be heard. This voice is drowning in the hype of mainstream media. If you care about that voice being heard, support it and subscribe.

Koraly Dimitriadis

Koraly is a widely published Cypriot-Australian writer and performer. She is the author of the controversial Love and F**k Poems. Koraly received an Australia Council ArtStart grant. She presents on 3CR radio and has a residency at Brunswick Street Bookstore. Her 2013 La Mama show is Exonerating The Body. She is mentored by Christos Tsiolkas.

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

If you like this piece, or support Overland’s work in general, please subscribe or donate.

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  1. koraly, this is really beautiful. i love how you explain the subtle shifting together of you and your dad, based on learning a new ‘language’ to communicate in, neither greek nor english? but the beauty of this story is the simplicity. you saw it, it hailed you, you carry it with you now. i guess everyone has a different story and a different kind of love affair, [me? i fell hard.] so thank you for sharing yours.

    and p.s. you could make a lot of money in advertising. “overland: it’s your politics subject” would totally be our slogan if i had a million bucks to market it to students.

  2. I find it intriguing, though a little puzzling, that such a person as your father appears to be here in this piece could raise/produce the person the pre-Overland Koraly appears to be, despite any language barrier. Thanks for sharing your journey.

  3. This is fantastic, pre-Overland Koraly sounds scary. I love the way you’ve described your journey, and how Overland changed you, it sounds religious and would certainly warrant a full length movie Greek odyssey style like “My Life in Ruins”.

  4. I’ve never read Overland before but I’ve had the same arguments with my Dad (over nand ovr again – only I always take the Left side). It gives us something to have a conversation about. Each time I leave, I’m convinced I’ve made him lean just a little bit more to the Left – and he’s sure that he’s slowly setting me on the Right path.

    BTW. LIKE the new extract!

  5. Hi everyone, thanks for your comments. Dad has definitely influenced the progressive slant to my writing. He still asks me to this day why I write and I have to tell him ‘Dad, you can’t lecture me on my politics my entire life and expect me not to absorb it.’ I love having Dad to discuss politics with now.

    Mark, I don’t think pre-Overland Koraly was scary but when I look back on myself working long hours for those corporate giants I think ‘What was I doing?’ But having said that, the experience I gained working in the corporate world have allowed me an insiders view of it and I can bring that into my writing.

    Maxine, I’m interested in why you find this puzzling? People aren’t born political, someone influences them in that direction. I think it’s a combination of Dad and my creativity and love for words that brought me to Overland.

  6. I agree Koraly: if I hadn’t worked in advertising, there is no way in the world I’d be a published author. It sounds, and IS disgusting, but knowing how to pitch, and brand yourself, and to do your ‘brand’ research puts you at the front of the queue every time.

    I guess it’s not so strange…look at Philip Ruddock and his daughter. it just horrifies me that, despite the best political upbringing, my children could grow up to be little brown John Howards 🙁

  7. When I studied at RMIT, we would regularly have to publicly pitch our projects to visiting publishers. It was quite a horrifying experience but I do agree with Maxine that it’s a useful skill to have.

  8. That is a very nice endorsement/advertisement and Overland is indeed an institution but let’s be fair. There are plenty of places for progressive voices to be heard, small presses, websites, blogs, zines etc. There are many more progressive voices than just the ones that appear in Overland.

  9. Paul, I don’t think there are ‘plenty’ of places where progressive writers can be heard. Overland will publish stuff that other places won’t even touch(fiction and non-fiction). Yes, people can write on personal blogs, but that isn’t the same as producing a journal of ideas, a journal that makes a statement in Australian politics. Our media is swamped with over-hyped crap and it’s refreshing to have Overland to say ‘yes’ there are other opinions out there. I don’t think there is a journal in Australia like it. Paul, you are a progressive writer also and if Overland died, I’m sure you would agree it would be a dark day for the progressive voice in Australia – am I wrong? Or else why would you continue to come back to the Overland blog if there are so many other progressive sites to go to out there?

    My article isn’t an advertisement – I don’t get paid to write on this blog – it is my honest journey. Nobody told me to write this story – it was my idea.

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