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How much do you know about East Timor, our nearest neighbour, just an hour’s flight from Darwin? Having gained independence after a bloody struggle with Indonesia in 1999, East Timor is now carving an autonomous identity, which is no easy task. One of the poorest countries in the world, close to 50 per cent of East Timor’s adult population is illiterate. Basic services and systems that we take for granted – such as hospitals, schools, public transport and roads – are still lacking. And with the United Nations pulling out in August 2012 and violence rumbling in the streets, more civil and ethnic unrest threatens to resurge.

Jill Jolliffe is one of Australia’s most respected journalists and foreign correspondents, and she has spent a large part of her career toiling in the complex machinations of East Timor’s political system and social fabric. Her acclaimed 2001 book, Cover-Up: The Inside Story of the Balibo Five, recounts the infamous murder of her journalist colleagues in 1975.

Jill recently returned to East Timor for the first time in over a decade, visiting sites made notorious after the deaths of ‘the Five’. She encounters the excavation of mass graves and the enduring holes in the murder investigation, and finds herself increasingly troubled by China’s ever-growing influence in the region.

In other commentary, Gabrielle Carey writes about the mercurial Australian novelist Randolph Stow, and his ambivalent relationship to his homeland. In a chapter from her memoir-in-progress, Lee Kofman describes with candour and honesty her experiences searching for non- monogamous relationships, and the challenges and prejudice she’s encountered on her quest to live according to these principles. Elsewhere, Robbie Arnott bares all, literally, on the summit of a Japanese volcano, after an unexpected encounter with a French photographer.

In Fiction, Miles Franklin long-listed novelist Patrick Allington’s story ‘At Rothko’ is a comical account of family dynamics, while Helen Dinmore’s ‘An Illusion Caused by the World Spinning Around’ is a lyrical coming-of-age story set in a commune.

Kill Your Darlings is in conversation with US novelist David Vann, whose critically-acclaimed cycle of stories set in Alaska, Legend of a Suicide, cast him onto the world stage, while in Reviews KYD regular Caroline Hamilton writes about the enduring charm of US writer and publisher Dave Eggers, a ‘one-man zeitgeist’.

We’re massive fans of Eggers’ work – particularly his advocacy of literacy. Caroline’s insightful piece is an inspiring account of what innovation in publishing can achieve, and highlights the challenges of writing non-fiction with the force of celebrity seeping into the stories.

Happy reading!