Midnight Oil

[Powderworks] nmoc Capricornia

Jim Stanley jim_snappa@hotmail.com
Sun, 16 Dec 2001 11:48:06 +1000

I enjoyed the book, hell I could hardly put it down, but I'm particularly 
fond of stories about the Outback and Aussie lives & culture (I must have 
read Strict Rules 3 times already!).
I just got the book from library. Xavier Herbert wrote 2 or 3 books that 
became regarded as "classic Australian literature", so it's not hard to find 
here. He wrote another called "Poor Fellow My Country" which also sounds 
quite interesting ( and is apparently one of the longest novels written in 
the English language!), but my library doesn't have that one, dammit.
Capricornia was first published in (I think) 1938. I felt a little uneasy at 
first, reading a story in which Aborigines and Chinese are constantly called 
'niggers' and 'chows'. Thing to remember is that the story begins well 
before WW1, in a time when racist perspectives were well and truly 
commonplace. Even the more open-minded white folk used the term 'nigger' 
freely in conversation.
There are some shining moments in that novel which I really enjoyed and also 
terrible parts full of despair and shock. Herbert makes his point clear, 
though doesn't 'take sides' as such. There's hardly a character in the book 
who doen't suffer from human frailty, greed, fear or folly.
The point being that we are ALL homo-sapiens...cursing and stumbling through 
life...united in our need to come to terms with the unforgiving and 
unpredictable power of the landscape, the COUNTRY which smothers, devours, 
but also breathes life into us all.


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