Mirroring, Depth and Inversion: Holding Gail Jones’s 'Black Mirror' Against Contemporary Australia

Naomi Oreb


Gail Jones's most recent novel, 'Sorry', has been readily embraced as the author's most probing consideration of the historical and contemporary treatment of Indigenous Australians by this country's federal Government. One critic noted that 'the word "sorry" has become so contentious in recent times that Gail Jones's decision to adopt it as the title of her fourth novel must be interpreted as a political statement', whilst another pronounced the novel 'Gail Jones’s "sorry" to her aboriginal compatriots'. At the same time, however, the existing body of criticism regarding Jones's previous novel, 'Black Mirror', has almost entirely side-stepped a close examination of the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians within the text.

I argue that 'Black Mirror' foregrounds the need to rectify past and present injustices and the importance of Indigenous Reconciliation through the filter of the surrealist art movement. I examine how Jones develops these themes, focusing first on the reality of war-torn Europe, second on the historical perspectives offered by non-Australian characters, and third on the political dimensions of the human body. It is through these visual and profoundly emotional foci that Jones sustains an enduring, haunting sense of incompleteness throughout the text, and fosters a broad, national imperative to 'unconceal' existing black holes in Australia's history. In doing so, 'Black Mirror' calls for a politically active Australian populace and highlights the negative consequences of collective political detachment and complacency on Indigenous issues.

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