The Pages by Murray Bail - review by Francis King

Francis King

Wither the Wether?

The Pages

By

Harvill Secker 208pp £14.99 order from our bookshop
 

Two unmarried friends – Erica, a philosopher in her mid-thirties, and Sophie, a psychoanalyst in her mid-twenties – set off from Sydney to drive to a remote sheep station in the interior of Australia. The siblings who own the station have invited Erica to come and appraise the work of their recently dead brother, Wesley, who spent the last years of his life as a recluse in a now disused shearing shed, working obsessively to produce a philosophy of his own rather than elaborating and reconciling the philosophies of others. Is he an unacknowledged genius in a country in which, as the author puts it, ‘at the very word “philosophy” people … run away in droves, reach for the revolver’, or is he merely a self-deluding amateur?

Here is a highly promising beginning. The gradual shift, in the course of the long journey, from urban certainties to the mysteries of a road rising and falling and twisting and turning over misty mountains and glaring plains, is crisply realised. No less crisply realised is the insecure relationship between

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