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Gilbert Phelps

Gilbert Phelps is a novelist. He is also the author of The Last Horizon, an account of his travels in Brazil, and of The Tragedy of Paraguay.

Wallahs and Wallabies

Gilbert Phelps, 8 May 1986

On the face of it, autobiography and travel should be the simplest forms of literature to write: the facts are there, there is a life or a country to be crossed. Yet they have their own special difficulties of tone and approach, and of all forms they are perhaps the most subject to the fictionality of truth, while paradoxically demanding a core of inner truth if they are to become literature. Of these three books, in which the two genres are combined, that label can properly be applied only to David Malouf’s 12 Edmondstone Street. An intimate apprehension of time and place informs the long title essay, which probes into the remembered experience of a child’s association with the house in Brisbane where he was born. As such it is a genuine journey into the interior: ‘Each house has its own topography, its own lore: negotiable borders, spaces open or closed, the salient features – not Capes and Bays in this case but the Side Door, the Brass Jardinière – whose names make up a daily litany. A complex history comes down to us, through household jokes and anecdotes, odd habits, irrational superstitions.’’

An Infinity of Novels

Philip Horne, 14 September 1989

Anthony Trollope once proposed to write ‘a history of English prose fiction’, but ‘broke down in the task, because I could not endure the labour in addition to the other labours...

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