‘It’s uncanny’: acclaim at last for Gerald Murnane, lost genius of Australian letters

Gay Alcorn, 21st Sept 2018, ‘The Guardian’

“I have something to say first,” says Gerald Murnane, to around 250 people who have come to hear Australia’s difficult literary genius in a rare outing. “You people here tonight can count yourselves fortunate … because this is going to be my last public appearance.”

Everyone laughs, including Murnane, who at 79 has said that before and stopped writing for many years before resuming. He’s finished with it now, he says, and Border Districts, released last year, will be his final novel.

More from Gay Alcorn at The Guardian

The world is being undone before us. If we do not reimagine Australia, we will be undone too

Richard Flanagan, ‘The Guardian’ 5th August 2018

When my father died at the age of 98 he had largely divested himself of possessions. Among what little remained was an old desk in which he had collected various writings precious to him over the years: poems, sayings, quotes, a few pieces he had written, some correspondence. Among them my elder sister found a letter written by one of my father’s cousins many years before. In it she told my father that his mother, my grandmother, was of Aboriginal descent, and that in her family she had been brought up to never mention this fact outside of the home.

My father loved discussing interesting letters with his family. He never discussed this letter. Yet he kept it. The story of covering up Indigenous pasts was a common one in Tasmania, where such behaviour was for some a form of survival. There is no documentation to prove my father’s cousin’s story is true, but that doesn’t make it untrue. It leaves the story as an unanswerable question mark over my family.

The theme of this year’s Garma festival is truth telling. My father’s story is about the questions truth raises, and where the truth takes us. I don’t tell this story to claim I am an Indigenous. I have too much respect for Indigenous people to make such a claim.

More from Richard Flanagan at The Guardian

Richard Flanagan: ‘Our politics is a dreadful black comedy’ – press club speech in full

(Richard Flanagan, National Press Club address)

Indigenous Australia has, after great thought and wide discussion, asked that it be heard, and that this take the form of an advisory body to parliament – a body that would be recognised in the constitution.

Indigenous Australia wasn’t even recorded as a general category
“What a gift this is that we give you,” Galarrwuy Yunupingu has said, “if you choose to accept us in a meaningful way.”

The gift we are being offered is vast; the patrimony of 60,000 years, and with it the possibilities for the future that it opens up to us. We can choose to have our beginning and our centre in Indigenous culture. Or we can choose to walk away, into a misty world of lies and evasions, pregnant with the possibility of future catastrophe.

But this gift needs honouring in what Yunupingu calls a “meaningful way”. It needs honouring with institutions, with monuments, with this profound history being made central in our account of ourselves and, above all, with what the Indigenous people have asked for repeatedly: constitutional recognition.

In truth, we can no longer go forward without addressing this matter. We cannot hope to be a republic if this is not at the republic’s core, because otherwise we are only repeating the error of the colonialists and the federationists before us.

At a moment when democracy around the world is imperilled we are being offered, with the Uluru statement, the chance to complete our democracy, to make it stronger, more inclusive, and more robust.

And we would be foolish to turn that offer down.

Read more at The Guardian, 18th April, 2018