Alexis Wright employs mysticism, stark reality, and pointed imagination to re-create the land and the Aboriginal people of Carpentaria.
In the sparsely populated northern Queensland town of Desperance, loyalties run deep and battle lines have been drawn between the powerful Phantom family, leaders of the Westend Pricklebush people, and Joseph Midnight's renegade Eastend mob, and their disputes with the white officials of neighboring towns. Steeped in myth and magical realism, Wright's hypnotic storytelling exposes the heartbreaking realities of Aboriginal life.
By turns operatic and everyday, surreal and sensational, the novel teems with extraordinary, larger-than-life characters. From the outcast savior Elias Smith, religious zealot Mossie Fishman, and murderous mayor Bruiser to activist Will Phantom and Normal Phantom, ruler of the family, these unforgettable characters transcend their circumstances and challenge assumptions about the downtrodden "other." Trapped between politics and principle, past and present, the indigenous tribes fight to protect their natural resources, sacred sites, and above all, their people.
Already an international bestseller, Carpentaria has garnered praise from around the world.
Full of larger-than-life characters and prose that channels the rhythms of Aboriginal speech, Wright's book is anything but mainstream. Wright's lyrical prose, bright characters, and mythical elements create a great patchwork of an original novel - one that will enchant a variety of readers. (Reviewed by Sarah Sacha Dollacker).
A latter-day epic that speaks, lyrically, to the realities and aspirations of aboriginal life.
Rarely does an author have such control of her words and her story: Wright's prose soars between the mythical and the colloquial.
Wright's award-winning second novel (after Plains of Promise) offers in Phantom one of the most compelling literary protagonists since Odysseus and will surely stand as a masterpiece of modern English-language literature.
The Daily Telegraph (UK
By the end of the book you'll be seduced by its Dreamtime logic, and probably persuaded by its passionate political and ecological message. It's not an easy read, but if you want to know the real Australia, persevere.
The Guardian (UK)
If you want to sample the writing at its best, look at the novel's eighth chapter, an astonishing tour de force in its own right.
The Age (Australia)
Carpentaria is a big book, more than 500 pages, big enough to enter a world, to feel as if you once lived in a town called Desperance.
Sydney Morning Herald
Wright breaks all the rules of grammar and syntax to sweep us along on a great torrent of language that thrills and amazes with its inventiveness and humour and with the sheer power of its storytelling. It's brutal and confronting and it's sad and funny at the same time. Like the Gulf Country itself, this is big enough to lose yourself in. Once in, you may never want to be found.
The Independent (UK)
There is hope here in these stories – the big ones and the little ones in between – but like Norm, you'll need to dive in and almost drown in them to find it. Like Will, the reader is on a quest. Like Truthful the copper, you won't know quite what to believe. And like Elias, you'll emerge from this astonishing novel, sodden but illuminated, and with part of your brain left somewhere in the Dreamtime.
Carpentaria is essentially a novel about the clash of cultures, told from the perspective of the Aboriginal people of Australia. Just as the book illustrates, there is still debate in Australia about who can legitimately claim rights to the land - indigenous Australians, or descendants of the original European settlers. From the earliest contact with British settlers through the reeducation campaigns of the late twentieth century, the Aboriginal peoples have been effectively marginalized from democratic society.
As did many colonial regimes, the British colonizers of Australia viewed the land in their newly "discovered" country as belonging to no one, and thus open to appropriation. This in spite of aboriginal patrimonies that stretched back many thousands of years. After centuries of what amounts to legally sanctioned theft,...
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