Gerald Murnane and Music & Literature


Issue 3 of Music & Literature is out, I am not the first to note, but I had waited to clear other obligations before sitting down to read it. You will find much on the writer Gerald Murnane, who I’m set to tackle soon. Text Publishing, one of the finest smaller publishers you’ll find anywhere, has brought out The Plains, and has plans to release A Lifetime on Clouds later in the year. This comes in addition to the titles already available to American readers from Dalkey Archive.

Issue 3 contains a pair of truly remarkable letters between Teju Cole and Murnane, as well as Will Heyward’s interview with the writer. Among the revelations are Murnane’s remarks to Heyward’s question of why, having already published widely by the 1990s, Murnane continued writing but not publishing his work:

“I seemed to discover in the 1990s that all fiction was bordered by a landscape where imaginary racecourses were situated and imaginary horses raced. The word Gaaldine, as the matter is explained in Barley Patch, refers to an imaginary country on the borderlines of a further imaginary country, called Gondal, which was the world where the members of the Brontë family, as youngsters, used to set fictional works, poems and histories. It was physically located, I think, in West Africa, but was more or less an English sort of colony or land. And, in a famous sentence, Emily Brontë wrote, ‘Gondal is discovering the interior of Gaaldine.’ Or, in other words, people in an imaginary setting are discovering a further imaginary setting, suggesting an infinite progression of imaginary places. And this, in some ways, relates to my seeming discovery, in the 1980s and 1990s, that beyond the fictional landscapes I saw, if you like, or used as the settings for my fiction, there was a further landscape of imaginary horse racing – and that’s the first and last time I’ll ever say it this simply and directly, and, for lots of reasons, I’m not even comfortable saying that.”

Just a remarkable series of pieces, from a publication that has already, only three issues in, not only found its feet but established itself as essential reading. And that doesn’t even begin to discuss the sections on Vladimir Godár and Iva Bittová.

– John McIntyre

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