Gerald Murnane

Last Letter to a Reader

In the first days of spring in his eighty-second year, Gerald Murnane – perhaps the greatest living writer of English prose – began a project that would round off his strange career as a novelist. He would read all of his books in turn and prepare a report on each. His original intention was to lodge the reports in two of his legendary filing cabinets: in the Chronological Archive, which documents his life as a whole, and the Literary Archive, which is devoted to everything he has written.

As the reports grew, however, they themselves took on the form of a book, a book as beguiling and hallucinatory, in its way, as the works on which they were meant to report. These miniature memoirs or stories lead the reader through the capacious territory Murnane refers to as his mind: they dwell on the circumstances that gave rise to his writing, on images and associations, on Murnane’s own theories of fiction, and then memories of a deeply personal kind. The final essay is, of course, on Last Letter to a Reader itself: it considers the elation and exhilaration that accompany the act of writing, and offers a moving finale to what must surely be Murnane’s last work, as death approaches.

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  • Gerald Murnane was coined in The Guardian as “one of Australia’s greatest writers” and The New York Times considers him “one of the best English-language writers alive.”
  • Gerald Murnane speaks to Tristan Foster at 3:AM Magazine about writing, craftmanship, and his place in Australian literature.
  • You can read The New Yorker’s profile of Gerald Murnane here.
Original language: English
Format: B-format paperback
Publication date: 3 May 2022
ISBN: 9781913505424
Ebook ISBN: 9781913505431
Availability: World English exc ANZ


New Yorker

‘A voice that has spoken in an almost unbroken tenor across some fifteen strange and brilliant books; a voice in which one hears a different notion of life’s time than what can be measured by counting the years that elapse from the day of one’s birth to the day of one’s death.’

Lola Seaton
New Statesman

‘This quirky, sometimes fussy valedictory text features enjoyably grouchy dealings with past critics ... and idiosyncratic, mysterious ideas about writing fiction.’

Dustin Illingworth
New York Times Book Review

‘When looking over the endless paddocks of his fictions, one is also looking out at the mysterious landscape of the soul.’

Shannon Burns
The Monthly

‘The best book about Murnane’s books that anyone is ever likely to write.’

Peter Craven
Australian Book Review

‘Has any writer ever paraded his aesthetic privacies so shamelessly? It doesn’t matter. These are the ravings of a genius. Ignore them if you dare, literature-besotted unraveller.’

Praise for Gerald Murnane

‘Murnane, a genius, is a worthy heir to Beckett.’      Teju Cole

‘The emotional conviction…is so intense, the sombre lyricism so moving, the intelligence behind the chiselled sentences so undeniable, that we suspend all disbelief.’ J. M. Coetzee

‘An enigmatic author, possibly the best you’ve never heard of . . . His work insists on the reality of the inner world – perhaps even its primacy.’ Melissa Harrison, Financial Times

‘Immediately arresting . . . Murnane’s writing exhibits what literature should: an insight into a way of seeing that is quite unlike our own.’ John Self, Irish Times

‘As with Proust, the specificities of the images he pursues and catalogues provide their own pleasure [but] the effect of his writing is less about the images themselves, and more about the way thought works in the human mind.’ Chris Power, The Guardian

‘Murnane’s fantasies are many-layered, and the narration weaves between these and his mundane life in thrillingly long, lyrical sentences.” Christian Lorentzen, London Review of Books