Author(s): Les A. Murray
A riveting, beautiful novel in verse by Australia's greatest contemporary poet, winner of the 1996 T. S. Eliot Prize.
I never learned the old top ropes,
I was always in steam.
Less capstan, less climbing,
more re-stowing cargo.
Which could be hard and slow
as farming- but to say
Why this is Valparaiso
Or: I'm in Singapore and know my way about
takes a long time to get stale
.-from Book I, "The Middle Sea"
When German-Australian sailor Friedrich "Fredy" Boettcher is shanghaied aboard a German Navy battleship at the outbreak of World War I, the sight of frenzied mobs burning Armenian women to death in Turkey causes him, through moral shock, to lose his sense of touch. This mysterious disability, which he knows he must hide, is both protection and curse, as he orbits the high horror and low humor of a catastrophic age.Told in a blue-collar English that regains freshness by eschewing the mind-set of literary language, Fredy's picaresque life-as, perhaps, the only Nordic Superman ever-is deep-dyed in layers of irony and attains a mind-inverting resolution.
Les Murray is Australia's leading poet. He lives in Bunyah, near Taree in New South Wales. He has published some thirty books. His work is studied in schools and universities around Australia and has been translated into about half a dozen foreign languages. In 1996 he was awarded the T.S. Eliot Prize for poetry, in 1998 the Queen's Gold Medal for poetry, and in 2004 the Mondello Prize. His most recent collection, The Biplane Houses, was published by Black Inc. in April 2006.