Document Type


Publication Details

Bobis, M. C. "Fish-Hair Woman - Novel." North Melbourne: Spinifex, 2012.



Research Background

This novel reverses the usual portrayal of Philippine-Australian relations typically depicted in light of Philippine migrants in Australia, but rarely in terms of Australians in the Philippines. Transnational literature has problematised cross-cultural storytelling, but empathetic transnational literary production between different worldviews has not been given as much attention. Magical realism, realism, and metafiction are rarely employed in a single novel.

Research Contribution

While the novel pivots on a contemporary Philippine war, it weaves multiple stories across the Philippines, Australia, and the United States against the backdrop of the Philippines’ history of colonisation. This transnational literature reflects on itself: Philippine and Australian protagonists implicated in a war in a Philippine village ‘co-write’ the story about it against a global context. Blending realism (and history), magical realism, and metafiction, the novel creates a space where different worldviews and modes of storytelling collaborate with and interrogate each other.

Research Significance

Published by Spinifex Press, North Melbourne and Anvil Publishing, Manila, this novel experiments with content and form, in order to reflect on how stories about war and loss are told locally and globally, and how transnational empathy may deal with cultural difference. The novel has won Australia’s 2013 Most Underrated Book Award and the 2014 Juan C. Laya Philippine National Book Award for Best Novel in a Foreign Language (English). It has been adapted into a full-length play in Filipino and staged in two seasons in Manila (March, November 2014). It is currently being translated to Spanish (with an Australia Council grant) for publication in Chile (2015).



Prologue:The howling bounces around the trees used for coffins. It climbs to a mournful pitch, slopes down and tapers to a whimper. Then it starts again, the same distressing ascent and decline. Sometimes it simply keels over.I, Luke McIntyre, assure myself it's not me but I feel the strain in my throat. I swallow, gripping the sheaf of papers. And anyway they can't hear. They are the handful of passengers flying to Manilla, the soft-spoken, soft-soled lot of them. It's business class and the mood is affluent restraint, like a signature hush. I drum the seat in front of me with my sandals. Someone murmurs her annoyance. Quickly a steward appears to serve the nicest admonishment against the drumming or the fraying sandals, who knows. Bloody snoot!The howling starts again. It dives into the river and I can't breathe. The water fills my mouth, my throat, my lungs. It is sweet, it is very sweet.