Behind the Mountain: Return to Tasmania

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9780671673734: Behind the Mountain: Return to Tasmania

A native of Tasmania provides a tour through the mountainous, raw beauty of the land where he was born and introduces readers to a debating team of murderers, an aboriginal matriarch, a "Crocodile Dundee" clone, and other fascinating people

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From Publishers Weekly:

When he was 20, Conrad left his home in Tasmania for Oxford, London, New York; 20 years later, he returnedto rediscover the island and his relationship to it. The author of Imagining America evokes an extraordinary portrait of his native land, a brilliant, merciless portrait. Tasmania, he writes, is Australia's little Australia, doubly isolated frm the world, a place whose settlers attempted to reconcile Arcady with Alcatraz. When its name was changed from Van Dieman's Land to Tasmania, the colonists conveniently forgot its brutish origins and re-wrote history, dismissing from memory the horrors of Port Arthur prison and aboriginal genocide. Mt. Wellington, rising behind his childhood home in Hobart, represented the unknown to young Conrad. His journey begins there, taking him to the roadless, inhospitable, inclement southwest coast; to a grisly convict museum; to Flinders Island, whose residents have turned it into a monumental junkyard. Continuing his exploration, he visits mining areas, abandoned farms, ghost towns and graveyards. He sees the landscape as part savage Eden, part factory with its own manufactured sceneryzinc works that taunt nature with useless, extravagant art, power lines supplanting nature by technology. Dead gum trees are "twisted in arthritic agonies but unbowed"; they are succeeded by giant pylons, "trees transformed into girders of metal." Conrad conveys no romantic empathy with a pristine environment, but a sense of land as adversary; people have been able to live in Tasmania only by ravaging the land. National self-image alternates between gentle English villagers and brawling frontier Americans. Artists and writers have made Tasmania habitable by depicting a fiction; local poets dream of England and awaken to a different reality. Romantic dream or romantic nightmare: a Switzerland of the Pacific or an Appalachia of the Antarctic? Conrad invokes powerful images of a remote, desolate, exotic land; ultimately, he accepts the fact that when you leave home, it travels with you. Part autobiography, part history, part travelogue, this is a wholly memorable memoir.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal:

This is primarily an autobiography with a strong dose of Tasmanian history and geography. The author returns from England to Tasmania, the land of his birth, after an absence of two decades, to find that "Tasmania has set the terms of my life." This less-than-earth-shattering discovery is detailed in the book. Through the author's eyes we see the harsh beauty of this land and sense the insularity borne of its isolation. "To me, Tasmania itself was the cold place," he states. Conrad's sense of estrangement permeates the book and makes it less than gripping to read. Unlike Joan Colebrook's A House of Trees (11/1/87), an autobiographical account of growing up in Queensland, this fails to enthrall. For specialized or comprehensive collections.
- Susan M. Unger, Madison P.L., N.J.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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