John’s notes on Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas

barracudaBarracuda by Christos Tsiolkas


Tsiolkas is back! He is as complex, interesting and in your face as ever. There are a number of strands skilfully interwoven with time shifts. There are two layers of Melbourne life – the protagonist Danny’s inner suburban interethnic lifestyle (Scots radical father, Greek mother) with parallel musings on what it is to be working class today (recent electoral results) and the privileged Toorak world with its own clans, practices and expectations. The intersection and distillation between these is ‘cunt’s college’ through which Danny hopes to parlay his swimming talents into a new glorious escapist existence. There is the world of fetishist sports worship to which Australian are repeatedly told they are gloriously addicted and its vicious underbelly redeemed only by occasional flashes of true friendship. There is the world of prison and enforced male rape and sex. There is the world of geographic escapism handily distilled in the same Scottish environment in which Tsiolkas sojourned when he found his creativity blocked. There is homosexual love.

The one constant is Danny’s impulsion to express his need to be a winner at all costs – the strongest, fastest, the best – as is so often lauded in press and TV in the aspect of so many unformed late adolescents.

For once (and it is no secret) it isn’t going to happen and the book can be divided to phases of anticipation, failed realisation with shame, humiliation and worse, and what finally what degree of resolution and redemption can be obtained. The passage is the thing. The vehicle (Danny) is hardly likeable (his nicknames are “psycho Kelly” and “barracuda”) though understandable and yielding occasional flashes of identification (I certainly found it so).

Given his background (and I have said it before) there is huge potential here for another Tsiolkas screenplay for film or TV with even more potential to exercise opinions.


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