History Seminar Series – Dr Maria Tumarkin, 23 August 2017

Dr Maria Tumarkin from The University of Melbourne will present her paper, titled ‘Help! I can’t finish my book on Time!’, on 23 August (11am). Dr Tumarkin is a writer, historian, teacher and translator, with three published monographs and another forthcoming.


I’ve been writing a non-fiction book about the past being alive in the present – individual, familial, collective, global – for over seven years. In this time one of the people I wrote about (20,000 words!) published her own memoir, tired of waiting for me to finish my book. ‘Maria, I am not going to live forever,’ she said. In this time I’ve left one publisher and then my just-right new publisher left his job. The world around me has been changing so much I’ve had to scrape or rewrite huge chunks that took me years to research. People’s lives I was writing about had new twists and turns and these had to be included or at least acknowledged in the manuscript. I was also changing as a writer. By the time I would get to the end of the full draft, sentences in those earlier chapters would feel like they were written by a stranger – a stranger who had no business writing books.

In this seminar I would like to discuss the experience of being defeated by Time while writing a non-fiction book ostensibly about it. Is it possible to map the relationship between the past and the present from a moment in the present as it is (always already) sliding into the past? What precisely is my task as a historian of the present, which is to say as a chronicler of the present’s enmeshment with the past?

For those of you rightly concerned for me and my family, I have just – unless this is all a dream – finished.


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