For anyone even remotely interested in the intercultural history and landscape of Central Australia, this small volume is revered as being one of the gospel texts. A ‘true’ story of the struggle between life and death, and of faith, whilst travelling through a landscape whose mythological essence continues to be enacted through the primal forces of heat, dust, and storm. There is the death, inevitable death, of the author’s father, the Lutheran pastor of the Finke River Mission at Hermannsburg for 28 years, Pastor Carl Strehlow, the so called ‘uncrowned king of Central Australia’.
TGH Strehlow was only 14 when these events occurred in 1922, but he did not write this memoir until a near-death experience of his own jolted it from him 47 years later.
It is an odd memoir. Strehlow writes in the third person, referring to his young self as the distant ‘silent witness’ ‘Theo’. The objective distance purports to be a parallel (or twin) universe. (Strehlow was a Gemini, and born into Twins Dreaming at Hermannsburg.) The narrative drive towards his father’s death is given far greater effect by Strehlow’s (later learnt) knowledge of the mythology of the land traversed — a land of fire and death — but with this memoir Strehlow is himself myth making. A lifelong collector of Arrernte sacred song and myth, herein he creates his own threshold myth, and defines his own mythology.
More of what I have read can be found under INFLUENCES.