Fraught with Danger and Promise

Text Publishing Company
Publication Type:
Tourmaline, 2015
Issue Date:
Full metadata record
Files in This Item:
Filename Description Size
Stow-Tourmaline_Carey-intro_clean.docAccepted Manuscript version36.5 kB
Microsoft Word
When the actor, director and writer Rachel Ward was leaving England for Australia, a friend handed her two books. If you want to understand the country you’re going to, he said, these are your essential texts. One of them was The Timeless Land, by Eleanor Dark. The other was Tourmaline, by Randolph Stow. There is something quintessentially Australian about Tourmaline. The outback town could be any outback town, the pub any rural pub at the end of ‘the raw red streak of the road’. The landscape of dust and flies is instantly recognisable. But what is this book about a stranger who comes to a once-prosperous mining town now stricken by drought, promising to bring water? Is it fable or allegory, a Western, or a philosophical examination of the differences between Christianity and Taoism? Tourmaline was published in England in 1963 and subsequently greeted with bewilderment in Australia. Dame Leonie Kramer dismissed it as ‘The Waste Land with a few more bar scenes’. Anthony J. Hassall calls it Stow’s least understood book. It is the most overtly modernist of his eight novels, and the author’s favourite, perhaps because it combined his talents as poet and prose writer. Indeed, the first few lines could easily be reformatted into poetry:
Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: