Now reading: A country in mind, by Saskia Beudel

SA country in mindaskia Beudel, A country in mind: memoir with landscape (UWAP 2013)

Although the cover image (of a bushwalker, large pack on back, standing amongst footprints on sand with, apart from her shadow, no other distinguishing features) and the blurb (about trekking in Central Australia, Tasmania, Ladakh, and the outward journey and the inward journey that accompanies and sometimes outweighs them) intrigued me, I was hesitant about reading this book. Having independently trekked for weeks and more in all of these places, I was interested in hearing someone else’s view and account.

The chapter Gorge, of a potentially fatal incident in Redbank Gorge at the base of Mt Sonder, is the highlight. But, to my disappointment, it was the only walking chapter. And though the incident opens the authors eyes to a new world, one that she has conveyed in the book, it is also one where she remains a frequent visitor only.

I moved to Central Australia 9 years ago, and many of the things that interest or concern Beudel in this book, I share, and have written about (on a smaller scale). The environmental and ecological changes, the cultural fragmentation, the many storied layers. The effects of colonialism are still being played out here in a landscape still rich with known stories and significance. So I could read through the chapters on buffel grass and bastard pastoralists and find something in them, something of me too. But I wondered how many other readers would persist this far. How would the ‘music’ she heard in the gorge (which I had heard years ago when crossing the Simpson Desert solo) and that drama keep people reading when the focus changed from a psychological bushwalking memoir to a historical family memoir to travel monologue to pseudo-academic paper and back again.

Ultimately, I am not sure how far she goes to answering the books epigraphic questions (from Barry Lopez’s excellent Arctic Dreams):

How do people imagine the landscapes they find themselves in?
How does the land shape the imaginations of the people who dwell in it?

More of what I have read can be found under INFLUENCES.

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