25 September 2023

Border Districts

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Reviewed by Rama Gaind.

By Gerald Murnane, Giramondo Publishing, $24.95.

Considered as Murnane’s last work of fiction, this was written after he moved from Melbourne to a small town on the western edge of the Wimmera plains, near the border of South Australia.

Many a time it is the way a focus is placed that makes imagery unforgettable.

That’s the case with this fiction where the narrator has made a similar move, from a capital city to a remote town in the border country. He intends to spend the last years of his life here. It is a time for ‘exploring the enduring elements of his experience, as these exist in his mind, not as an integral landscape now, but as image-fragments; so that there is an urgency in his attempts to gather them together’.

At the end of the work, Murnane quotes the poet Shelley, ‘Life, like a dome of many-coloured glass,/ Stains the white radiance of Eternity’. If Border Districts suggests the border land between life and death, it also refers to the narrator’s discovery of someone else who might share his world, though she enters it from another direction, across the distance that separates them as human beings.

The lyrical rendition is solemn, but powerful. You can’t help but be swayed by the expressive persuasion that’s embedded in the expressed knowledgeable sentiments.

Skepticism takes a back seat.

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