Island stories

Negotiating identity between different Italies

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  • Published 20200804
  • ISBN: 978-1-922212-50-4
  • Extent: 304pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm), eBook

SANDY AND BERYL Stone had ‘a really lovely night’s entertainment’ one Tuesday in Melbourne in the late 1950s – according to Barry Humphries’s brilliant ‘Sandy Stone’ satire of Australian suburban life – when they attended a picture night at the tennis club. ‘The newsreel,’ Sandy reported, ‘had a few shots of some of the poorer type of Italian housing conditions on the Continent and it made Beryl and I realise just how fortunate we were to have the comfort of our own home and all the little amenities round the home that make life easier for the womenfolk, and the menfolk generally, in the home.’ [i]

Sandy’s remarks on Italy echo those of ‘Nino Culotta’, the pseudonymous author of John O’Grady’s novel They’re a Weird Mob (Ure Smith, 1957), published at around the time Humphries first performed this sketch. The novel is the story of Italian journalist Nino Culotta’s arrival in Sydney and initiation into the Australian way of life, and Nino was taken by some to be a real migrant until a couple of months after the book’s release. At one point in the story, Nino comments: ‘Italy was a terrible place. Who would want to go back there?’ [ii]

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