Tales of Old Travel: Predecessors of David Malouf’s ‘The Conversations at Curlow Creek’

David Malouf's most recent novel The Conversations at Curlow Creek is written in the style of a fable, a story whose basic structure is familiar to us. Two boys grow up together in a great house in Ireland around 1800. One, Michael Adair, an orphan, is fostered in the home of the second, Fergus Connellan, the heir to an estate. A close bond develops between them, and with a neighbouring girl, Virgilia, with whom they are both in love. But their temperaments gradually diverge; Fergus immerses himself in the plight of ordinary Irish folk, while Adair remains more detached. Their personal and political trajectories remain unresolved at home. As men, both come independently to Australia. All the cards are reshuffled on the great inland plains of New South Wales, where their divergent life histories are played out. Fergus, having discarded his upper class heritage, reappears as the bushranger-rebel Dolan, who has moved away from society into the high plains, perhaps to lead an insurrection. In contrast, the more austere Adair has improved his position in the world. Now a soldier-policeman, he seeks out his former companion.

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Published 1 October 1997 in Volume 18 No. 2. Subjects: Australian culture, Australian novels & novelists, Bush, Myths & legends, Place & identity, Search for self identity, Self discovery.

Cite as: Morgan, Patrick. ‘Tales of Old Travel: Predecessors of David Malouf’s ‘The Conversations at Curlow Creek’.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 18, no. 2, 1997. https://doi.org/10.20314/als.4acf9c3580.