Border Districts cover
Gerald Murnane

Border Districts

A man moves from a capital city to a remote town in the border country, where he intends to spend the last years of his life. It is time, he thinks, to review the spoils of a lifetime of seeing, a lifetime of reading. Which sights, people, books, fictional characters, turns of phrase and lines of verse will survive into the twilight? Feeling an increasing urgency to put his mental landscape in order, the man sets to work cataloguing his memories, little knowing what secrets they will yield and where his ‘report’ will lead.

Border Districts is a jewel of a farewell from one of the greatest living writers of English prose. Winner of the Australian 2018 Prime Minister’s Literary Award and shortlisted for the 2018 Miles Franklin Award, this is Murnane’s first work to be published in the UK in thirty years.

Read an Excerpt
Paperback: £8.99
EBook: £5.00

More Info

Print status: Available
Original language: English
Format: B-format paperback
Publication date: 31 January 2019
ISBN: 9781911508380
Ebook ISBN: 9781911508397
Availability: UK, Europe and Commonwealth (excl. Canada)
Number of pages: 144


Melissa Harrison
The Financial Times

'His work insists on the reality of the inner world — perhaps even its primacy.'

Claire-Louise Bennett
author of Pond

'I read Border Districts gripped by that pensive elation which alerted me to great writers when I was a reader in my adolescence. That he can bring that most precious sensation up through me now must mean that Murnane is a writer of utmost brilliance.'

Chris Power
The New Statesman

'From a boy following Bassett Creek to an old man patrolling the borderlands, Murnane’s books are expeditions that encompass a territory unlike any other.'

Daniel Swift
The Spectator

'Tamarisk Row is a remarkably acute portrayal of what it is to be a bullied, confused boy, while Border Districts is dazzling for its austerity, its cruel purity. Their sentences ring in the ear, and the novels stay with you.'

Jon Day
The Guardian

‘Strange and luminous ... His books ... (are) really about the mind behind (their) characters: the singular, fascinating consciousness that gives them life.’

Claire Lowdon
Sunday Times

‘Border Districts excavates a fascinating subject: the experience of encountering fiction, and what our minds unconsciously conjure for us as we read.’ ‘Murnane's books persuasively insist that the amorphous contest of our minds are as real as external “reality”’

J.M. Coetzee
New York Review of Books

‘[For Murnane,] access to the other world – a world distinct from and in many ways better than our own – is gained neither by good works nor by grace but by giving the self up to fiction.’

New York Times

‘Strange and wonderful and nearly impossible to describe.’

Paris Review

‘Murnane has proven, over four decades and some dozen books, to be one of [Australia’s] most original and distinctive writers.’

Teju Cole

‘A genius.’

Benjamin H. Ogden
New York Times

‘An image in Murnane’s prose has the quality of an image in coloured glass: One both sees the image and sees through the image simultaneously.’

Washington Post

‘Murnane’s is a vision that blesses and beatifies every detail ... Fascinating . . . Relentlessly introspective but dependably playful.’


'An old man ruminates on landscapes and houses, authors and religion, colored glass and memory in this drifting quasi-fiction. The unnamed narrator, age 72, has recently moved from a city to live alone in a 'quiet township' near an unspecified border in an unnamed country. In the opening pages, he recalls his school days and the religious brothers who taught him.'

Sam Sacks
Wall Street Journal

'Border Districts, with more room to expand, feels less formally oppressive while still holding the author’s signature moments of crystalline detail and uncanny observation. (...) The sequences are inscrutable and resistant to interpretation.'

Publishers Weekly

'Devotees of Murnane (The Plains), the exacting Australian writer of crafty, austere fictions, will find familiar themes in this prismatic work: the fascination with color, the grassy landscapes, and the obsessive compiling of a mind's 'image-history.' The aged narrator, a 'student of colors and shades and hues and tints, ' has retired to a 'district near the border' of his unnamed native land. There he explores the regions of his psyche with a monklike devotion, 'study[ing] in all seriousness matters that another person might dismiss as unworthy, trivial, childish.''

Sydney Morning Herald

‘To give over to [Border Districts’] demands, to its way of making the familiar strange, is to open oneself to the delicate power of its rhythms, the haunting depth of its images, and the irrefutable craftsmanship in every sentence.’

Peter Craven
The Australian

'His new book, Border Districts, is weird in the way everything he has published is weird. It possesses the peculiar quality of being intimately familiar and unidentifiable. (...) Border Districts is a bit like a Wordsworthian epic in quasi-lyrical mode that has been translated from the Hungarian and reconfigured as an old codger’s attempt to find his fragments in his ruins and to adjust to his obsessions a language of maniacal precision and blindness. (...) This is a book that refuses to name names, and its elaborate winding stair will preserve the wonder of a sensibility at the edge of solipsism. (...) You will not find a more intimate or more lame or more deeply wrought piece of fiction anywhere in the world.'

Helen Elliot
The Monthly

'Border Districts is a devotional manuscript in which the intention is not the divine but a recuperation, even a restoration, of self. It is thrilling. Nothing happens, everything happens.'

Adrian Nathan West
Times Literary Supplement

‘As Murnane remarks, “My writing was not an attempt to produce something called literature but an attempt to discover meaning”, and his insistence on the artifice of written enterprise bears witness to a thoroughness and integrity that far outweigh the minor virtue – or minor vice – of readability.’

Lidija Haas
Harper's Magazine

‘Murnane, in his unfailingly serious way, is very funny. We read and think about him ruminating on his reading and thinking about reading and thinking until the book rather gloriously threatens to swallow itself whole.’