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[[ Read Epub ]] ⛓ Poor Fellow My Country á In Poor Fellow, My Country, Xavier Herbert returns to the region made his own in Capricornia Northern Australia Ranging over a period of some six years, the story is set during the late s and early s but it is not so much a tale of this period as Herbert s analysis and indictment of the steps by which we came to the Australia of today Herbert parallels an intimate personal narrative with a tale of approaching war and the disconnect between modern Australia and its first inhabitants With enduring portraits of a large cast of local and international characters, Herbert paints a scene of racial, familial, and political disparity He lays bare the paradoxes of this wild land, both old and wise, young flawed Winner of the Miles Franklin Award on first publication in , Poor Fellow, My Country is masterful storytelling, an epic in the truest sense This is the decisive story of how Australia threw away her chance of becoming a True Commonwealth It is undoubtedly Herbert s supreme contribution to Australian literature An achievementthan a masterpiece Deliberately no emotions are written in to the narrative Example the episode in which Jeremy is dropped off in the Outback to experience its solitude Chap 19, IV Beautiful writing but we get no description of how he is actually experiencing that solitude and later his fears during the night alone only descriptions of his outer appearance and actions This removal of emotions from characters their stoicism, perhaps typical of the Australian c An achievementthan a masterpiece Deliberately no emotions are written in to the narrative Example the episode in which Jeremy is dropped off in the Outback to experience its solitude Chap 19, IV Beautiful writing but we get no description of how he is actually experiencing that solitude and later his fears during the night alone only descriptions of his outer appearance and actions This removal of emotions from characters their stoicism, perhaps typical of the Australian character numbs the reader so that we remain at a distance from them, never wholly involved with them No one is shown to be truly connected with anyone else throughout the novel They are just solitary individuals in a landscape No real reciprocal connection takes place And when Herbert attempts any sort of affection, the dialogue is pretty woeful The sea gave you to me The sea took you away Only the sea can give you back and I must die in the sea for it p.1407 These people seem to have no inner life They are shallow, superficial The most passion they display is through political convictions, at least the non indigenous ones In the whole novel I really only felt an interest in Prindy s character How I wished Herbert had concentrated on him only So, I guess ultimately it s whether you care for these characters some are interesting, even fascinating But they didn t engage me as life and blood people instead of representations of a type the author has created to personify his ideas And the detail he goes in to for no obvious end, leaves you overwhelmed and mentally exhausted Structurally, not all the parts come together seamlessly maybe the canvas is just too vast A mass of incidents that swirl from one to the next More positively, the overlay of Indigenous myth and philosophy gives the story a unique dimension, another reality The command of detail is exceptional There is a marvellous sense of place Also, a wonderful feeling of freedom and independence These people white and black are living on the edge, the fringes of society they are isolated in a vast land The atmosphere is exciting No one seems to spend much time on everyday chores or have a work routine though I also liked Herbert s passion for his country, his old fashioned nationalism, his activism and his advocacy for the Aborigines It s a great work of the imagination Teeming with incident, if not action There are brilliant passages evoking the Indigenous experience of the landscape In its scope, it leaves most other novels in the shade I would give this novel only 2 stars I had to skim read from p.800 to finish it except for the author s powers of description and his ability to evoke the atmosphere of the 1930s and the Australia of that time Before people get upset with me for saying this is Australia s greatest novel, let me say that I realise that it won t appeal to everyone, and perhaps especially to a younger generation less steeped in history than we were However, whenever I am asked what is the finest piece of literature to come out of Australia, I unhesitatingly reply that this is it It has everything that an Australian could wish for that is representative of that very eccentric land, and muchbesides.The name alone s Before people get upset with me for saying this is Australia s greatest novel, let me say that I realise that it won t appeal to everyone, and perhaps especially to a younger generation less steeped in history than we were However, whenever I am asked what is the finest piece of literature to come out of Australia, I unhesitatingly reply that this is it It has everything that an Australian could wish for that is representative of that very eccentric land, and muchbesides.The name alone should give the alert reader something to think about Isn t it odd It is the starting point and central theme around which the whole turns and part of the majesty of this novel lies in that cardinal simplicity It never gets lost No matter into what dreamtime corner or shady southern political deal the author takes us, we understand that one central thing And beyond that, where every truly giant novel must go For Whom the Bell Tolls, Under the Volcano , there is an underpinning of universal truth that makes us aware that this is no mere provincial affair, that Herbert is not just idly lamenting in some forgotten corner of the globe.The other characteristic that makes it truly incomparable on the Australian scene, is that it can be read at so many levels Herbert may be taking a hard look at many issues unresolved in the Australia of the forties and fifties, but have we come to terms with them today And are the political shenanigans that take place in the land of Auz, so very different from those elsewhere Whether you are interested in Australian history, or in learning something about the aborigines, or seeing the outback in all its glory, this is the book And as for it being too long, I can almost guarantee that the reader who once gets a head of steam up, will still be puffing like billy o at page 1,463 And if you are still ready forby then, well you re in luck, because Herbert wrote a further volume about life in northern Australia, Capricornia It is not a sequel and it is not, in my opinion, of exactly the same calibre, but it is a very fine book nonetheless Poor Fellow, My Country should not be out of print, ever It is one of those books that will endure, because it goes beyond the run of everyday storytelling into the realm of great literature Poor Fellow My Country falls somewhere between a 3.5 and a 4.0, so I rounded up because I was feeling generous Poor Fellow My Country is an epic Reading this work is a substantial investment of time my journey through it took somewhere between seven and eight weeks Mileage may vary, depending on whether the reader is Australian or not As an outsider, I suspect that this book means less to me personally than if I were born in the land of Oz, the land down under That being said, Poor Fellow My Poor Fellow My Country falls somewhere between a 3.5 and a 4.0, so I rounded up because I was feeling generous Poor Fellow My Country is an epic Reading this work is a substantial investment of time my journey through it took somewhere between seven and eight weeks Mileage may vary, depending on whether the reader is Australian or not As an outsider, I suspect that this book means less to me personally than if I were born in the land of Oz, the land down under That being said, Poor Fellow My Country has much to offer any reader willing to invest the time in Herbert s magnum opus There is much to like, even some to love, in Poor Fellow My Country, though it has its shortcomings, too Let s start with the positives yes, I m doing a pros and cons list forgive me.First, Herbert s descriptions of Australia as a land are truly amazing at times He is adept in delineating the beautiful landscape of Northern Australia in particular the rainy season, the mountains and plains, the power of the land as an almost spiritual force Herbert s detailed portrait of the physical landscape is clearly borne of a deep love for it Taking the time to visualize the land is a key ingredient to understanding and enjoying Poor Fellow My Country it is a pleasure not to be overlooked Another strength of Herbert s is his ability to paint a convincing political climate Not being much of a politico myself, this aspect of the book did not initially appeal to me However, by the time I was halfway through, the political machinations and details became increasinglycompelling Poor Fellow My Country is full of World War II and its seldom studied effects on Australia, a country sorely lacking in identity during the 30s and 40s The forces of Communism and Socialism saturate the many pages of the book, and Hitler and Mussolini are observed from afar Australia s inner turmoil in finding its place during these global events is portrayed by Herbert in a way that is hard to dismiss A final strength of Poor Fellow My Country worth noting is the sheer power of the work It is one of the only books I have read in the last few years that nearly nearly brought me to tears By the end of the book, I felt fully invested in Australia, rooting for the country to break away from imperial forces and revert to the ways of old I wanted the Aboriginal people to receive some sort of reparation to be allowed to live in peace, enjoying their lives as before the arrival of the kuttabah I wanted to see the squattocracy brought low and destroyed Ultimately, I desired to see Australia take up the mantle of its own identity, loosing the imperial shackles that had no place on the country I am certain this is precisely how Herbert wanted his readers to feel, and my own experience bears witness to his success.Unfortunately, Poor Fellow My Country does have its issues, too, some of which are hard to ignore First, Herbert s character development is far from perfect As a fellow reviewer noted, he is often guilty of heavy handed stereotyping Many of the characters in the novel feel flat and insipid, mere tableaux for human life Herbert is particularly guilty of doing this with his female characters They are often needy and girlish, completely dependent on others for any kind of satisfaction Rifkah may be an exception to this The women of his novel are less intelligent than the men and constantly seek affirmation from them Along these lines, nearly every woman in the book has some kind of unexplained affinity for Jeremy Delacy, the scrub bull In fact, there are several young and sexy women throughout the course of Poor Fellow My Country who want nothingthan to copulate with Jeremy, who is nigh sixty years old To me, this has the damning appearance of the fantasies of an old man, as Herbert was at the time of writing It is an aspect of the book better left at the drawing board, and one that never ceased to annoy me.My other complaint against Poor Fellow My Country is its rather ignorant hatred of Christianity Now, are there some attacks against Christianity that are well thought out Sure However, Herbert s blatant hatred of the religion is uninformed and unconvincing He sees it only as a force of imperialism, in which form it is detestable indeed Herbert chooses to focus on the acts of hypocritical imperialist Christians, not on the belief system itself Much like his character development, his diatribes against Christian faith are flat and one dimensional Interestingly enough, he does not take this tone with the Cult of the Rainbow Snake, which seems to be a rather violent and menacing religion, whose followers can be excused or at the least, not seriously condemned for acts of extreme torture Complaints notwithstanding, Poor Fellow My Country is worth the time it requires to read It is a complex and powerful novel, one that paints the Australia of the 30s and 40s in all its glory and grime While Poor Fellow My Country is a far cry from perfect, it remains a very good read and one that I will likely return to someday Mummuk yawarra At 1443 pages, Xavier Herbert s masterwork Poor Fellow My Country took a month to read I set myself a target of 50 pages or so each day, and interspersed the reading with other books to literally lighten the load My hardback copy weighs nearly 2 kilos, and it measures 23.5 x 16 x 6cm, which makes it hard to hold in the hand, but it s heavy going inways than one The book is dense with characters it alludes to real people and events that involve guesswork about who they are plot point At 1443 pages, Xavier Herbert s masterwork Poor Fellow My Country took a month to read I set myself a target of 50 pages or so each day, and interspersed the reading with other books to literally lighten the load My hardback copy weighs nearly 2 kilos, and it measures 23.5 x 16 x 6cm, which makes it hard to hold in the hand, but it s heavy going inways than one The book is dense with characters it alludes to real people and events that involve guesswork about who they are plot points are resurrected many pages after their first mention and there are chunks of polemical rants that seem to go on and on forever The reader needs stamina, tolerance and patience to read Poor Fellow My Country It is an intensely political novel, and what many Australian readers may find confronting is that Herbert makes no secret of his contempt for his fellow Australians.Poor Fellow My CountryFirst edition, 1975Yet Wikipedia lists Poor Fellow My Country among its notable books published for that decade, and it won the Miles Franklin Award in 1975 IMO that s not because the novel has great prose, or wonderful characters or lyric qualities or even a very good plot It won, I think, because it s one of the few books I ve read that tackles the issue of Australian identity.Poor Fellow My Country is a lament for the Australia that Herbert thought it could have been, an Australia that could reconcile the dispossession of its indigenous people and throw off its colonial apron strings I think that most Australians now would have some sympathy with his resentment of Australia s largely self imposed deference to all things British, which meant that British still held sovereignty in many areas Because of the Australian Parliament s delay in ratifying the Statute of Westminster 1931 , by the time WW2 started Australia still wasn t part of the Commonwealth of Nations but rather still part of the British Empire Its soldiers were British, travelling on British passports, and under British command Herbert regarded this as a second dispossession in Australia.However, I suspect that his vision of a Creole Anglo Aboriginal nation would sit ill with many, not least our Indigenous people themselves because they want to retain their own unique culture, heritage and identity Some might also feel that by recording some of their myths and cultural practices in this book, Herbert is guilty of appropriation He was a champion of indigenous issues for his time, and according to the introduction in the AR edition , his efforts to use fiction to bring these issues to a wider audience were valued by Indigenous people in that era, but times have changed I d be very interested to read a review of Poor Fellow My Country by a contemporary indigenous reader.To read the rest of my review please visit