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The Pages [Paperback]

Murray Bail
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Aug. 31 2009
Murray Bail’s first novel since Eucalyptus is a beguiling meditation on friendship and love, on men and women, on landscape and the difficulties of thought itself.

What are THE PAGES?

On a family sheep station in the interior of Australia, a brother and sister work the property while their reclusive brother Wesley Antill, spends years toiling away in one of the sheds, writing a philosophy. Now he has died.
Erica, a philosopher, is sent from Sydney to appraise his work. Accompanying her is Sophie who needs a distraction from a string of failed relationships. Her field is psychoanalysis. These two women, each with a different view of the world, meet a situation they have not experienced before — with surprising results.


From the Hardcover edition.

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Review

“One of the great and most surprising courtships in literature.”
— Michael Ondaatje

“A most unusual, enchanting work . . . a novel of most beguiling originality.”
Daily Telegraph

“The novel’s pleasures . . . mostly reside in its formal arrangement and Bail’s brilliantly distilled and witty prose.”
Times Literary Supplement

“Complicated, enigmatic, interesting fiction.”
The Times


From the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Murray Bail was born in Adelaide in 1941. He is the author of four novels and two collections of short stories. His novel Eucalyptus won the 1999 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the Miles Franklin Literary Award. Harvill Secker published his Notebooks in 2005.


From the Hardcover edition.

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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars "Life is the intruder on thought..." Oct. 17 2009
By Friederike Knabe TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
At the time of his death, Wesley Antill, son of a wealthy sheep farmer and self-declared philosopher, had left his rambling thoughts in big heaps of scattered, handwritten notes all over his shed-study. His siblings, Lindsey and Roger, having looked after the farm while intellectual Wesley pondered life and philosophy, are tasked with publishing his work. To assess the value and validity of Wesley's notes as having the makings of a "philosophy" Erica Hazlehurst, herself an established philosopher from Sydney, arrives with her psychoanalyst friend Sophie in the remote Australian Outback. Two city women in the wilds - the challenges start there. Ten years after the award winning Eucalyptus: A Novel, Bail's new novel has been greatly anticipated. The least one can say that this slim volume provided much encouragement for reflection on the meaning of "thought", "self", "philosophy", and some lighter, humorous fare as "life intrudes".

Bail tells the story from two related perspectives alternating throughout the narrative. First, Erica's exposure to Wesley's writing, but more poignantly, to the Antills and their enormously different life from one that she is familiar with and, even more important, and to the power of the bare and empty countryside. These aspects are beautifully evoked by the author. Interleaved are Wesley's unstructured accounts and musings of his version of a modern Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship: first in Sydney, then in England and Europe. Some pages of writing contain only a few sentences or words, pinned on a line across the room... are these to be interpreted as element of his philosophy? Erica - and the reader - struggles to piece anything coherent together.
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Life is the intruder on thought..." Sept. 27 2009
By Friederike Knabe - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
At the time of his death, Wesley Antill, son of a wealthy sheep farmer and self-declared philosopher, had left his rambling thoughts in big heaps of scattered, handwritten notes all over his shed-study. His siblings, Lindsey and Roger, having looked after the farm while intellectual Wesley pondered life and philosophy, are tasked with publishing his work. To assess the value and validity of Wesley's notes as having the makings of a "philosophy" Erica Hazlehurst, herself an established philosopher from Sydney, arrives with her psychoanalyst friend Sophie in the remote Australian Outback. Two city women in the wilds - the challenges start there. Ten years after the award winning Eucalyptus: A Novel, Bail's new novel has been greatly anticipated. The least one can say that this slim volume provided much encouragement for reflection on the meaning of "thought", "self", "philosophy", and some lighter, humorous fare as "life intrudes".

Bail tells the story from two related perspectives alternating throughout the narrative. First, Erica's exposure to Wesley's writing, but more poignantly, to the Antills and their enormously different life from one that she is familiar with and, even more important, and to the power of the bare and empty countryside. These aspects are beautifully evoked by the author. Interleaved are Wesley's unstructured accounts and musings of his version of a modern Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship: first in Sydney, then in England and Europe. Some pages of writing contain only a few sentences or words, pinned on a line across the room... are these to be interpreted as element of his philosophy? Erica - and the reader - struggles to piece anything coherent together. "It will take months" to work through the wealth of material. Without doubt, the author enjoys toying with the reader's creative imagination. Intriguing thought elements hint at deeper analysis, if Erica could only find those bits of paper, leaving more questions than providing answers. For example, why the Australian landscape and climate are not conducive to philosophical thought...

The beauty of Australian landscapes, in particular the dry and sparse surroundings of the sheep farm, are exquisitely conveyed. Bail is well known for his talent in this regard and for his ability to create atmospheres that reflect the intense impact the landscape can have on people living in it or suddenly exposed to it. The relationships between the four protagonists, on the other hand, while well set up initially, drawing the reader into a range of complexities, are not fully realized and leave the reader hoping for more exploration. Erica with her own reflections on philosophy and changing perspectives make her the more interesting character. While Bail has been counted among the post-modernist authors, the novel could have benefited for more detail and depth. All in all not a fully satisfying reading experience. [Friederike Knabe]
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The road to Gundagai May 20 2013
By Peter R. Wigley - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The scene is a sheep station in far western NSW. The actors are (1) The owner of the station,a widow (2) Her son (3) Two women who come to the station,one an academic who has been given the task to decide whether another son,since passed away,has really formulated a philosophy worth publishing,and a psychiatrist who is along for company and who likes to sleep with her patients,especially if they are ex priests. The three women get along pretty well.The book spends a lot of time decribing the wanderings of the philospher,to London,Amsterdam and other places before he decides to come back to the Australian station and write up his notes. His one love,Rosie,who joins him in Europe, is killed in a car accident they have whilst driving in snow. His following sequestration in an old shearer's quarters on the station to write up his philosphical notes is looked on with toleration by his mother and brother.
The academic is upset when she accidentally spills a cup of coffee on the philosopher's notes.but the brother says she shouldn't worry they will dry out. Sophie,the psychiatrist, decides to return to Sydney to revive a relationship she is having with the academic's father and takes the car the women came in. So the academic is left with the son,she gets lost in the paddocks but is found by the son before it gets too cold She says it will take many months to collate the dead philospher's notes,and we are left with the impression that an affair will blossom between her and the remaining son.
It is an interesting book which needs to be read several time before one can comment on it
By the way,my title "The road to Gundagai" comes from the theme song of a serial "Dad and Dave" which was aired on radio 3DB at 6.45 pm when I was a child in Melbourne. I have never been to far western NSW
Peter R Wigley
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