Tales of Old Travel: Predecessors of David Malouf’s The Conversations at Curlow Creek
Malouf's choice of subject matter is not arbitrary. His story is one version of an archetypal Romantic story, whose particulars change according to the teller, but whose lineaments remain the same. In mainstream English fiction of the nineteenth century, it is the story of two men, one of whom succeeds and the other loses both his loved one and his inheritance. In response to this dual catastrophe he disappears, changes his name, and goes into exile, immersing himself in the mire and grime of existence, and feeling badly done by. The Australian variant is that the disappearance or exile takes place here. It is essentially a story about two similar people who travel to Australia in the early days and take the contrary paths which the country offers them, or of two warring potentialities within the same personality which are given rein in Australia.
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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, David Malouf.