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March 27, 1994|CHARLES SOLOMON

THE KWINKAN by Mudrooroo (Angus & Robertson/HarperCollins: $10; 130 pp., paperback original). The latest novel by Aboriginal writer Mudrooroo takes the form of a series of depositions by a would-be big-shot. The narrator's failure as a businessman and political candidate in Queensland puts him at the mercy of the party bosses, who send him to investigate a Pacific island group that's about to become an independent state. The inept fixer wastes his time pursuing the heiress of the island's de facto ruling family, whom he compares to a Kwinkan, a siren in Aboriginal myths. Despite his dreams of glory, the narrator remains a pawn in a game waged by the heiress, a Japanese businesswoman and an Aboriginal undercover agent, in a stinging portrait of intransigent, post-colonial racism.

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