Posted by: Lisa Hill | March 12, 2013

Sensational Snippets: Harland’s Half Acre (1984), by David Malouf

Harland's Half AcreI am reading Harland’s Half Acre by David Malouf, first published in 1984 but reissued by Vintage with a new Afterword by the author.  As I anticipated, it’s brilliant. The prose is luminous.

Here are the three brothers climbing ‘the long road from the township’ to visit the lost prosperity of their ancestors:

Not far before the ruins there was a platform of rock.  Aborigines had foregathered here, all the local tribes in their wanderings, and left crude rock carvings.  Though far from the sea, turtles, starfish, even a giant whale lay stranded by time and the sun in the spare outline on the scored rock-surface, recalling a time when all this country really had been covered by the sea.  With their knees drawn up they would sit on warm stone in the very midst of it, among the sea-creatures and the flights of wallabies and paddymelons and every sort of bird; that other world would be all about them, abstracted into enduring lines that cross and criss-crossed in an endless puzzle.  The outline of a whale might be broken by that of a bounding kangaroo, the separate orders of creation, sea-beast and land-beast, interpenetrating in an element outside nature – the mind of whoever it was, decades back, who had squatted here and with bits of flint or a sharpened stone made the clearing a meeting place for separate lines of existence.

Stepping back into the lives of those first creators, they would crawl about, retracing the lines with a forefinger, clearing out leaf-grist, pollen, fragments of bark, the husks of dead insects; or would themselves take a knife and scrape, so that figures only vaguely discernable would, as they shifted about on their footsoles, climb back to the surface and surprise them.

‘Look!’ one of them might exclaim, standing up to see what they had made. ‘It’s another whale!’

Tired at last, they would lie spreadeagled on the sunlit surface, where old fissures in the rock made their own pattern, and doze off.  In the midst of that still menagerie.

David Malouf, Harland’s Half Acre, Vintage Classics, 2013, p 25

Author: David Malouf
Title: Harland’s Half Acre
Publisher: Vintage Classics, 2013, first published 1984
ISBN: 9781742758312
Source: Review copy courtesy of Vintage Australia


Fishpond: Harland’s Half Acre


  1. […] Harland’s Half Acre (1984), update:  see my review and a Sensational Snippet here […]


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