The past shapes the present – they teach us that in schools and universities. (Shapes?  Infiltrates, more like; imbues, infuses.) This past cannot be visited like an ageing aunt. It doesn’t live in little zoo enclosures. Half the time, this past is nothing less than the beating heart of the present. So, how to speak of the searing, unpindownable power that the past – ours, our family’s, our culture’s – wields in the present?

Stories are not enough, even though they are essential. And books about history, books of psychology – the best of them take us closer, but still not close enough.

Maria Tumarkin's Axiomatic    is a boundary-shifting fusion of thinking, storytelling, reportage and meditation. It takes as its starting point five axioms:

  • ‘Time Heals All Wounds’
  • ‘History Repeats Itself…’
  • ‘Those Who Forget the Past are Condemned to Repeat It’
  • ‘Give Me a Child Before the Age of Seven and I’ll Give You the Woman’
  • ‘You Can’t Enter The Same River Twice’

These beliefs—or intuitions—about the role the past plays in our present are often evoked as if they are timeless and self-evident truths. It is precisely because they are neither, yet still we are persuaded by them, that they tell us a great deal about the forces that shape our culture and the way we live. 

Axiomatic    is Tumarkin's fourth book of non-fiction, and her most pioneering. Her three previous books,    Otherland  (2010),   Courage  (2007), and   Traumascapes  (2005), have each and all been critically acclaimed and shortlisted for major prizes.

More than seven full and long years in the making, and utilising her time as a Sidney Myer Creative Fellow, Axiomatic    actively seeks to reset the non-fiction form in Australia.


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FORMAT: Paperback

LENGTH: 256 pp.

ISBN: 9781925704051




Various appearances at the    2018 Sydney Writers' Festival, including a long conversation with Richard Fidler about Axiomatic

Various appearances at the 2018 Melbourne Jewish Book Week, including as part of the Closing Gala Event

Event at the 2018 Feminist Writers Festival: 'It’s Personal: Feminism and Narrative Nonfiction' on Saturday 26th May


Maria Tumarkin is a writer and cultural historian. She is the author of three acclaimed books of ideas:  TraumascapesCourage, and Otherland. All three were shortlisted for literary prizes;  Otherland, most recently, was shortlisted for the Victorian Premier’s Award, NSW Premier’s Award and  The Age    Book of the Year. Tumarkin’s essays have appeared in  The Best Australian Essays    (2011, 2012 & 2015),  Griffith ReviewMeanjinThe MonthlySydney Review of Books The AgeThe Australian, and  Inside Story. Tumarkin is involved in wide-ranging artistic collaborations with visual artists, theatre makers and audio designers. She was a 2013–14 Sidney Myer Creative Fellow in humanities and is a member of the Melbourne Writers Festival’s programming committee. Maria teaches creative writing at the University of Melbourne.


“Nobody can write like Maria Tumarkin: she charges headlong into the worst and best of us, with an iron refusal to soften or decorate; sentences bare of artifice, stripped back to the bone, to the nerve; fired by raging grief and love.”
Helen Garner

“Maria Tumarkin writes of difficult topics with utmost integrity. Axiomatic is a dark gift: heartfelt, painful, full of sorrowful compassion. From schools, courtrooms, prisons, refugee camps, Soviet spaces and more personal inner life, come stories that break open the silence of suicide and the mystery of spirited persistence.”
Gail Jones

“A brilliant kaleidoscope of arresting observations on suffering and innocence in modern times, Axiomatic is by turns illuminating, infuriating, engrossing and even amusing. I feel ambushed.”
Robert Dessaix