First published in 2006
The Infernal Optimist is a portrait of a part of Australia rarely seen in fiction, and a daring dark comedy about an issue – refugees – that is no laughing matter. It was short-listed for the Australian Literary Society Gold Medal 2007.
Meet Zeki Togan, a small-time crim in big-time trouble. A quintessential Australian larrikin – whose biggest problem is that he isn’t actually Australian. 19 year old Zeki was born in the Old Country but has been in Australia since he was six months old and considers himself as Aussie Aussie Aussie oi oi oi as the next bloke. But due to a mix-up at the naturalisation ceremony (Zeki was in the pub when the rest of his family were getting their certificates and sprigs of wattle) and some unfortunate brushes with the law, Zeki finds himself awaiting deportation from Sydney’s Villawood Detention Centre. So Zeki finds himself locked up with the other crims, asylum seekers, sex slaves, illegal workers and visa overstayers. He loves Marlena, She Who Loves, Honours and Obeys Most a the Time Anyway, but he’s having a hell of a time proving it from the wrong side of a double fence. His new friends the ‘asylums’ aren’t doing so well either. Hamid loves Angel but she needs more than love. April thinks she loves Azad, but Azad thinks he loves April’s daughter Marley. Thomas loves any place but where he is. Everyone loves freedom. Not everyone gets it. Everyone wants to survive. Not everyone will.