Joseph Furphy's Such Is Life


  • Michael Wilding


Joseph Furphy's Sltch is Life (1903) opens simply and clearly enough with that memorable, sardonic initial declaration: 'Unemployed at last!'~


The complex reaction of the relief from work, while at the same time the prospect of poverty nnd hunger; the sense of liberntion, while at the same time the hitter reflection that it is only through unemployment that working men nnd women can ever attain the state of leisure and relaxation nvailnhle to the upper classes: all this is succinctly implied. There is a lot said but not said, a lot of social observation and commentary on the economic situation. This is not said, but it is implied. The line of full stops that immediately follows the opening sentence marks an excision. Already, after only three words, an excision, an absence is indicated. It is the clue that indicates that there is the unsaid, the unwritten (or unprinted), to be taken account of in this text, as well as the printed word. The row of full stops may proclaim the absent rather obviously, signposting the existence of the unsaid or the omitted. That there is an absence is not something concealed. A row of full stops often indicates an excision, a censorship authorial or editorial, morn) or political or verbal. Proclaiming the existence of the excised indicates that this unwritten, this unexpressed, is no secret. It presupposes that the narrator and the readers know that a lot of things are continually suppressed and left unprinted or unsaid or unwritten. But this does not mean that they are not there. The absent is not the unknown of the Freudian unconscious: this is not an unknown whose very unknown existence is unknown and unknowable; rather, this is a public proclamation of absence, of the unprinted. It acknowledges the convention whereby certain things are not said or not written. At this point there is not any need to be more specific than that. 'Unemployed at last!' implies that the comment may be political, a comment on the economic organisation of society.