Gerald Murnane: A great writer with a mind unlike any other

Two collections, of essays and stories, cement him as Australia’s biggest unknown writer

Australian author Gerald Murnane in 2005. Photograph: Eddie Jim/Fairfax Media via Getty

Australian author Gerald Murnane in 2005. Photograph: Eddie Jim/Fairfax Media via Getty

There’s something deeply paradoxical about Gerald Murnane and his work. He is Australia’s biggest unknown writer – frequently tipped for Nobel status, he has never attracted the attention of a wide readership. Last year we had the first UK and Irish publication of his earliest and most recent novels, which weren’t really novels. Now we have a collection of essays and a volume of stories, which – well. Read on.

To begin with, since the US publication of these books a few years ago, two of the stories (Stream System and Invisible Yet Enduring Lilacs) have moved into the other volume and become essays. Indeed, one of them is considered so quintessential an example of Murnane’s essay chops that it has given the book its title. Yet it was definitely a story a couple of years ago. What happened?

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