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David Ireland: Bloodfather

This is the story of Davis Blood from growing up till he becomes a young man. In that respect it is bit like A Woman of the Future. However, it is a more mature work and it is about a male rather than female. Davis is like many other boys in many respects – he fights, plays cricket, masturbates. But Davis is a David Ireland boy and that means he is a thinking person, a person curious about his world but one who remains very individual and who is not going to be sucked into a system. That system takes many forms – his family, organised religion, menial work, conventional mathematics, school, anything that will constrain his imagination and freedom, for Davis is an artist. He is an artist both as someone who draws and paints but also as a poet.

What makes this book so successful is that Ireland shows us the gradual growth of an artist, an artist not to the world but an artist to himself which, Ireland implies, is all that really matters. This growth takes place within the normal confines of growing up (unlike similar stories in other novels) – school, a relatively normal if slightly batty family, a conventional suburb of Sydney. His father is a shadowy figure but his mother, who sings hymns to herself, clearly influences his religious outlook (a Christian but personal view) while his Aunt Mira, with her continual linguistic jokes, influences his language.

But most of all it is freedom that is important for Davis and for Ireland. We are not talking about untrammelled freedom without responsibility à l’américaine but freedom in the broader religious sense, which brings responsibility as much as release. There is a chapter in the book called Captives and Free, where Davis struggles with what it means to be free and what it means to captive and is unable to come up with a fully satisfactory answer. Ireland knows that there are no easy answers to this problem and that is what this book is about.

Publishing history

First published 1987 by Viking Press