‘The Great Australian Emptiness’ Revisited: Murray Bail’s Holden’s Performance


If, as Dean MacCannell argues, tourism is the quest for a 'reality' and an 'authenticity' that are thought to be always 'elsewhere' (160), then it was perhaps inevitable that after his first novel, Homesickness (1980)—which deals with Australian tourists abroad—Murray Bail would turn from destinations to origins. Bail has spoken of his origins in an interview in 1981: 'It was the Menzies era ... that time of boredom and emptiness—of almost deafening emptiness—which is yet to be properly documented' (38). His most recent novel, Holden's Performance (1987), is an attempt by the novelist, tourist and theorist in Bail to revisit that emptiness while retaining the perspective of 'elsewhere'.

The full text of this essay is available to ALS subscribers

Please sign in to access this article and the rest of our archive.

Published 1 May 1991 in Volume 15 No. 1. Subjects: Australian culture, Australian identity, Characterisation, Historical fiction, Nostalgia, Place & identity, Postmodernism, Murray Bail.

Cite as: Dixon, Robert. ‘‘The Great Australian Emptiness’ Revisited: Murray Bail’s Holden’s Performance.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 15, no. 1, 1991, doi: 10.20314/als.8e5101759b.