Richard Flanagan, The narrow road to the deep north (Vintage 2013)
I have admired Richard Flanagan’s stories, prose, vision (and environmental ethic) for many years. My wife was reading his first novel, Death of a river guide, as we rafted down a low Franklin River on our honeymoon in January 1998. His earlier masterpiece, Gould’s book of fish, I rate as one of the best Australian novels of this century [read my short review of it for Meanjin].
Apart from the early lengthy love section, The narrow road to the deep north surges along. The use of poetry throughout, especially the haiku of Issa to introduce each section, is poignant and profound. The entire novel is like a Zen meditation, of remembering and forgetting, of transience, and of course, of love.
A world of dew
and within every dewdrop
a world of struggle.
The surprising influence of Flanagan’s book is the re-ignited passion for poetry, and in particular, the condensed form of haiku.
The moon leaks out
from sleeves of cloud
and scatters shadows.
Writing haiku suits my vision of writing landscapes, physical and metaphoric, in miniature. They are like portraits of country. Here are two:
Praying for rain
the shrubs offer
The distant mountain
levitates above the horizon.
More of what I have read can be found under INFLUENCES.