Elena Govor, My Dark Brother, Sydney, 2000
A provincial newspaper of the 1930s ... It is hard not to feel bored looking through it issue after issue — some advertisements, some reprints from other newspapers about international politics, a page of local sporting events and local news: weather and reports of activities of various local committees, boards, and associations. After a dozen issues you realise that all these reports have been produced year after year, seemingly unchanged, with the same several dozen surnames of the local ‘élite’. Like plastic pieces moved around a games board. No matter how long you follow them from issue to issue you hardly learn anything about their personalities, let alone anything about the real life and troubles of the hundreds of their co-citizens who were never ‘honoured’ by being noticed in the pages of the local newspaper.
Leandro, an émigré woodcutter from Utopia, 30 kilometres away from Ingham, who had never been elected to any boards and committees, seemed doomed to remain one of these obscure persons unnoticed by the local newspaper. But he was not. In the mid 1930s the Herbert River Express began to receive his letters and publish them under the heading ‘Correspondence’. They were quite different from the refined and sophisticated letters of the usual set of authors of this column hiding behind their noms de plume. Leandro’s letters gave an impression of a fresh breeze, of a naďve child who interrupted a stuffy meeting of the adults in order to remind them that beyond the walls of the meeting-room there is a real town with real people who live a real life and speak a real language. ..