Below the Styx: Michael Meehan

Awaiting trial for clobbering his wife over the head with an epergne, Martin Frobisher is incarcerated in that wild river between Hell and Earth – prison. But this isn’t purgatory. Jail bestows time for scholarship, and for Martin this uncharacteristic violence is an intellectual crime. What follows is a confession of guilt and innocence – a tightrope dance of wieldy sentences that swing between tragedy and farce.

With a nod to Tristram Shandy, it takes the length of the novel to narrate the full blow of the epergne. In between there is a ‘general collapse in the direction of origins’ – stripping history and humanity to the bone – suggesting that his murderous action is but a fatalistic cog written in all things past. To convince us he uses Marcus Clarke: interspersed in the text are passages of his prose. Poignantly the story asks: can this blow be an act of national catharsis? While Meehan is concerned with the nature of colonialism, capitalism, exile and dispossession, this is also about fiction and how a steep romp through human drama can shower each page with the truth of gold dust.

Cover image for Below the Styx

Below the Styx

Michael Meehan

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