January 17, 00

Vol. 15 , No. 06   


View Entire Issue (Vol. 15 , No. 06)


Reading from Fredy Neptune: A Novel in Verse
LES MURRAY
MONDAY, JANUARY 24, 2000

Les Murray is among the most powerful poets writing in English. His epic narrative Fredy Neptune: A Novel in Verse (1998), was described in The New York Times Book Review as "a haunting, loving, fiercely democratic epic by a master poet. Its formidable poetic brilliance is never used for show, but always serves an alert, spontaneous humanity. It is a book about racism, estrangement and survival, about carrying the whole world on your shoulders, in all its evil ... it is about forgiving God the unforgivable: this 'death and killing world.'"

Fredy Neptune is the story of Fred Boetcher, an Australian of German parentage. Fredy's journey takes him around the world and through the twentieth century including Australia in the impoverished 1920s, America during Prohibition and the Depression, Germany in the 1930s, the Far East in World War II, and home again. After witnessing genocide, Fredy develops a mysterious disease that deprives him of feeling. He calls this affliction "the Nothing." His journey is an epic of twentieth century mankind finding its way back to feeling and love after decades of cruelty. It is a work comparable in vision, intensity, and power to the best of Homer and written with wit and humor in a stunning vernacular.

Murray was born in 1938 in Nabiac, rural New South Wales, Australia and grew up on his father's dairy farm in Bunyah in a native wooded valley at the latitude where Dante Alighieri first beheld the Southern Cross constellation. By 1971, Murray had devoted himself entirely to writing. He returned from urban life to Bunyah and farming in 1986.

He has published numerous collections of poetry including The Rabbiter's Bounty: Collected Poems (1992), The Boy Who Stole the Funeral (1989), Dog Fox Field (1993), Translations from the Natural World: Poems (1994), and Subhuman Redneck Poems (1998), which won the T.S. Eliot Prize. His Learning Human: Selected Poems (2000), will be published this year. Murray's explorations of rural life and of the relations between poetry and religion place him in the great tradition of Hesiod, Wordsworth, Whitman, and Frost. His delicacy and craftsmanship have been recognized throughout the world. The late Nobel Laureate Joseph Brodsky wrote "it would be as myopic to regard Mr. Murray as an Australian poet as to call Yeats an Irishman. He is, quite simply, the one by whom the language lives."

This is the second in the series Homeric Visions: Ancient and Modern. Please join us for this reading by one of the world's great poets.