Years ago, I bought a copy of Gerald Murnane’s book The Plains (1982), a novel summarised in following words by the publisher:
The Plains is a short novel about a young filmmaker who travels to a fictive country far within Australia, where his failure to make a film is perhaps his most profound achievement.
I knew straight away — this is a book for me.
But somehow I never got around to read it …
Visiting London last weekend, I came across yet another book by Murnane. And of course I took it as a sign. I’m sorting out my shelves – it’s time for a journey into the world of Gerald Murnane.
And so this is what happens; I start reading Murnane backwards – beginning with his latest book, Border Districts (2017), first. According to Murnane Border Districts will be his last book. This is how it opens:
Two months ago, when I first arrived in this township just short of the border, I resolved to guard my eyes, and I could not think of going on with this piece of writing unless I were to explain how I came by that odd expression.
This is no spoiler, but you will not get the explanation of “the odd expression about the eyes” until the final page. What you do get, before this, is pages filled with strange observations and peculiar connotations – all delivered in a very distinctive voice & beautiful language.
The narrator of Border Districts is an elderly man who has just moved to the/a border, to come to terms with his catalog of memories – and especially memories as images, or memories of images – among them different kinds of stained glass. Maybe the best way to summarize the book is to say that Border Districts is a book about light, colored glass, religion … and marbles, with the narrator reflecting on the way these variables are linked by particular moments and images across his life. It carries forward with no real plot, the mind of the narrator being what gives the work shape. At first the text might seem rather obscure, but once you manage to enter the mind of the narrator and let it become your own, it’s all very beautiful.
If you want to know more, you can read an excerpt of Border Districts here – .
Gerald Murnane was born in Melbourne in 1939. He is the author of eleven works of fiction, including Tamarisk Row, The Plains, Inland, Barley Patch, A History of Books, A Million Windows, and Border Districts, and a collection of essays, Invisible Yet Enduring Lilacs.