From the Razors Edge
Much has been written about refugees struggle to find a place of acceptance under the sun. This is a true story in five parts covering half a century in life of people author met knew and worked with while analysing his own failures by his choices seesawing between life’s calamity and ecstasy. It is about human tragedy a great peoples made country, missed opportunities in the Australian Quintet. More
From the Razors Edge is Part 2 out of five parts on the timeline from 1957-1972. It begins with running away from life in communist Yugoslavia. After crossing the border to Trieste in Italy, I become a refugee detained in the refugee camp of San Sabba. With no time to waste, I escaped from the camp to continue on my dream journey to America. To avoid recapture and extradition back to Yugoslavia from Italy I walked across the north of Italy avoiding urban areas to the French border at Ventimiglia. My illegal entry to France ends in arrest and imprisonment, but it saved my life. After I had been set free, I drifted through France as a refugee, surviving on self-reliance by working part-time as a kitchen hand and whatever odd jobs I could find. Naive in matters of life, guided by my minds course, life challenged my moral and intellectual boundaries. When in Paris at Sorbonne, I soon discovered that the search for knowledge without belonging, freedom, and security was worthless cargo. While drawn into Paris left-bank drive, for a short time I was absorbed in the pursuit of what becomes a baptism of existentialism. When stapled into an emotional relationship, I justified it for the sake of art, discovering my moral and intellectual limitations. Adventure with an African Muslim teenager led me to the discovery of pervasive racism and intolerance. Being an illegal refugee in France without residential permit often resulted in hardship and imprisonment. At a late hour, I was forced to make a choice from being extradited back to Yugoslavia or sign up to French Foreign Legion (FFL). I choose the later. Despatched to Africa, Algiers war of independence in 1959 I soon found myself in strife. Court-marshalled for disobedience they sent me into the military slammer.
French Foreign Legion was a place where I wasn’t meant to be because soon after my arrival in Algiers I was captured by FLN (Front de libération national du Algérie). My lucky escape from capture earned my discharge from FFL and set me free to return to France. That was the beginning of my Antipodean journey.
On the way to Melbourne on 18 November 1960 while ship Roma docked at Western Australian Port of Fremantle a mining company recruiting officer scouting for mining workers made me an offer in the best-paid work in the country. That enticing offer changed my life’s direction. Instead continuing to Melbourne-four days later, I was at work in the infamous Wittenoom Blue Asbestos Mine. After a year, I left Wittenoom and settled in Melbourne, which became my home city of choice. Here I could converse in five different languages without ever crossing the street. It was here where my real story began. My story from the “The Book of Life” became “Australian Quintet” in five parts, written on borrowed time in adopted second language, English.
About the Title of this book.
I owe the title “From the Razors Edge” to one of my favourite authors W Somerset Maugham, who I met in person three times in Nice on the French Riviera in 1959, I describe in Chapter 8. At the time, I didn’t know who he was. After I had told him, I wanted to write but was looking for rules on how to start. He said, “As for rules, there aren’t any.” He added, “You just write.” So I did, leaving it a bit late to come out. Later he kindly gave me a copy of “The Razors Edge” in paperback. But I could not hone my skill to match his craftsmanship. And I am not like Larry Darrell his famous character who after his spiritual odyssey in search for the absolute came out wanting to drive a taxi in New York. My Odyssey was much to do with the quest for the absolute in finding my place in the sun, freedom, and the reason for my being here. I am perhaps lucky having found all these working creatively using my minds tools and life’s oxygen. Forgive me for following Master's advice.
Stjepan D Z Benedict, Melbourne July 2015.
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