..

The Conversation

  • Written by Anthony Uhlmann, Director, Writing and Society Research Centre, Western Sydney University

I first came to Border Districts through a brief description of it given to me by Gerald Murnane when I first met him three years ago. I thought he had told me that he did not think it was as complex as another work he wrote around the same time, A Million Windows.

Gerald Murnane's Prime Minister's Literary award is long overdue I clearly misunderstood the insight Murnane was offering into this book, which he also claimed would be his last. The more I read and reflect on Border Districts, the more profound and difficult it becomes. Murnane, who has long been recognised as one of Australia’s finest writers, has also long been neglected. The Prime Minister’s Literary Award is the first major award a book of his has received. The recognition is long overdue and just in time. It shows that there is still a place in Australian life for works of art that challenge us to think; that unapologetically ask us to think about what things, the things we live among and perceive, mean. The novel is situated within a framing setting much like present day Goroke in the border districts of Victoria and South Australia where Murnane now lives. Within this frame, the narrator moves between scenes of a remembered life, using motifs and images to draw these fragments together. In Border Districts, the narrator claims that the work he is writing is not a work of fiction; rather it is “a report of actual events and no sort of work of fiction”. He continues: As I understand the matter, a writer of fiction reports events that he or she considers imaginary. The reader of fiction considers, or pretends to consider, the events actual. This piece of writing is a report of actual events only, even though many of the reported events may seem to an undiscerning reader fictional. What comprise actual events, however, are the images that occur within the mind of the writer. In the passage just cited the narrator is imagining what it might be like to be within the mind of a long dead maiden “aunt” or cousin of a friend at whose house he stays when visiting the capital city of his state. He imagines he might be sleeping in the room she slept in. He knows certain things about her, most tellingly, that she was being courted by a young man who went to fight in world war one and never returned. He pictures her associating images that concern a narrative of a possible life she might have led if her suitor had not died, if she had instead married him and moved with him to a farming district to work for a landowner. The story he imagines would, in anyone else’s terminology, be called a fictional story, and yet the narrator insists that all of these image-events are actual. The heart of the matter is the feeling of understanding, or meaning, that is given to the reader. The narrator questions whether “feeling” is adequate to this process, and so uses the word “essence”. The narrator of Border Districts speaks of the images with which meaning is created as fragments that are drawn together as a kaleidoscope draws together its fragments of colour. The narrator sees his mind as drawing together these fragments into patterns, which then become meaningful to him, and this includes beliefs that once gave his life meaning, which he no longer believes in: He might have begun to understand that even the images that he claimed no longer to believe in — even these were necessary for his salvation, even if they were not more than evidence of his need for saving imagery. “Saving imagery” might mean “imagery that relates to salvation” or it might mean “imagery that is preserved”. While unfashionable to do so, then, Murnane charges fiction with a heavy responsibility and claims immense value for it. Fiction needs to preserve or guard images that give our lives a sense of meaning.

Authors: Anthony Uhlmann, Director, Writing and Society Research Centre, Western Sydney University

Read more http://theconversation.com/gerald-murnanes-prime-ministers-literary-award-is-long-overdue-108261

Politics

AWU National Secretary Daniel Walton on steel industry

Ambitious expansion plans make mockery of those who wrote off Australian steel industry GFG Alliance's planned rejuvenation of the Whyalla steelworks, and the Australian steel industry more generall...

George Neophytou supports roads funding and more

Independent candidate for Gippsland East George Neophytou has pledged to support completion of duplication of the Princes Highway between Traralgon and Sale and to upgrading of the Sale alternative ...

Scott Morrison interview with Alan Jones

Belt and Road Initiative; Law and order in Victoria; Queensland infrastructure; Power prices; Paris Agreement; Immigration; Negative gearing.   ALAN JONES: Prime Minister, good morning.   PRIME ...

Business News

Coco Hou: Do your research before you throw in your job to start a business

Holiday season is the peak time for people handing in their resignations.   More people quit in December than they do any other time of year.    Accounting and training expert and CEO of Platinum ...

How to Prepare your Business for Better Sales in 2019

The new year is coming, and this can be an exciting time for businesses It’s a chance to turn over a new leaf and set fresh goals for their organisations. If you own a business or are operating at a...

Know These Financing Hacks Before Joining The Trade Business

You must learn the trade world and find financing options that will make your company healthier. There are several companies that fail because they have never come up with financing that makes sense f...

Travel

5 Tips to Prepare Your Car For a Long Trip

There is never a guarantee that your car won’t have problems on any journey you take. But there are checks and basic maintenance you can do to eliminate some of the risks. When you are taking your c...

7 Off Roading Tips For The First Time Travellers

Travelling is one of the best hobbies that you may have as it gives you the opportunity to learn new things about countries or places that you visit such us the history, tradition, habits and even l...

Top NZ Campervan Spots For First Time Visitors

New Zealand’s stunning landscapes, moderate temperatures, and long, sunny days make the country ideal for a road trip. When you’re touring the country for the first time in your campervan hire New Z...