An eminent, seventy-two-year-old Australian writer is invited to contribute to a book entitled Strong Opinions. It is a chance to air some urgent concerns. He writes short essays on the origins of the state, on Machiavelli, on anarchism, on al Qaida, on intelligent design, on music.
What, he asks, is the origin of the state and the nature of the relationship between citizen and state? How should the citizen of a modern democracy react to the state’s willingness to set aside moral considerations and civil liberties in its war on terror, a war that includes the use of torture? How does the state handle outsiders? The treatment of asylum seekers at the Baxter facility in the South Australian desert brings to his mind Guantanamo Bay.
He is troubled by Australia’s complicity with America and Britain in their wars in the Middle East; an obscure sense of dishonour clings to him. In the laundry-room of his apartment block he encounters an alluring young woman. When he discovers she is ‘between jobs’ he claims failing eyesight and offers her work typing up his manuscript.
Anya has no interest in politics but the job provides a distraction, as does the writer’s evident and not unwelcome attraction toward her.
Diary of a Bad Year is an utterly contemporary work of fiction from one of our greatest writers and deepest thinkers. It addresses the profound unease of countless people in democracies across the world.