You probably shouldn’t take the title of Gerald Murnane’s Last Letter to a Reader too literally. Consisting of fifteen ‘reports’, the book was occasioned by Murnane’s decision to reread each of his published works during lockdown. He originally intended to file the reports away in his private archive, but after encouragement from his publisher he decided to publish them to stand as ‘a neat rounding-off to my career’. Yet as is shown by what develops into a meandering history of his writing life, this was not the only point at which Murnane felt he might not go on writing. After the publication of the novel Emerald Blue (1995), there was a ten-year hiatus before the appearance of several late works that have led to him being touted as a Nobel Prize contender and have returned attention to his early masterpieces Tamarisk Row (1974) and Inland (1988). As with the work of a writer to whom he is often compared, Samuel Beckett, Murnane’s writing seems to have been compelled by two conflicting impulses: I can’t go on, I’ll go on.
For readers unfamiliar with Murnane, which is likely to be most given that his works have only recently been published outside his native Australia, Last Letter to a Reader serves as an appropriately oblique introduction to one of the most original writers of English prose alive today. ‘Appropriately’