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Landscape of Farewell by Alex Miller
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Landscape of Farewell (2007)

by Alex Miller

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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
This book didn't pass my 'page 73 test' (if a book hasn't grabbed my attention in some way by page 73 then we both accept it never will and we part company). I gave up on page 66 and, if I am being totally honest, I'd have given up earlier were it not for the fact that a respected friend had recommened the book to me.

I found the detail excrutiating. I found the core event and subsequent relationship that drives the story utterly improbable. I found Max to be a melodramatic yawn of a character. And I found that I don't enjoy being led by the hand like a 6-year old through a predictable story where I'm told what to think and how to feel at every step.

Journey to the Stone Country was a far better book. ( )
  bsquaredinoz | Mar 31, 2013 |
This is a rather ponderous novel with a lot of philosophising in it and a certain feeling that the plot is rather artificial. Hamburg never really seemed to be Hamburg to me while the remote town in Australia was all explained a little too much – as if it needed to be introduced to a non-Australian audience. While I could respond to quite a lot of the ideas Miller raised such as the way he has his narrator, Max Otto, say ‘Guilt was . . . not the experience only of the heartless perpetrator of a crime, but was a complex and pervasive condition of the human soul, as intractable and as mysterious as love’. Cumulatively, though, the direct extrapolation of ideas about coming to terms with oneself made this into too much of a morality story for me.

If not pretentious, then often the writing was precious as in this passage where Otto reflects on the difference between himself as an old man and himself as a boy: ‘But what has changed? Inside, I mean. Nothing real. Nothing real has changed inside. All that is real has endured. Hopes, lusts, desires, dreams. All such stupidities as these have endured, even if I do not have the occasion to speak of them. And fear too. That also. It is all still with me. The strangeness of it all. The strangeness has endured.’ I found the verbal repetition here all straining for an effect that drew further away the more Miller tried to achieve it.

I also found it odd the way he equates Dougald’s aboriginal great grandfather’s story of massacring invading but well-intentioned white settlers with his own story, giving the wife of the slain white man the same name as his wife. Is he saying that just as those white settlers were well intentioned, so was his father in World War 2? On the other hand, in the massacre story he makes both Gnapun and the white settler almost the same person, i.e. both victims and perpetrators – how does this resolve his difficulty in dealing with what his father did in the war? How does writing the story help him to come to terms with his father’s secret past?

In the end I found this a rather improbable relationship between a retired German professor and an aboriginal elder but I found I could readily read this book. ( )
  evening | Feb 26, 2013 |
Excellent portrayal of a man at the end of an academic career who has lost his wife and will to live. A meeting with a Sydney academic at his farewell speech changes his future ( )
  siena09 | Aug 11, 2012 |
A poignant meditation on loss and secrets that can alienate families. This is the story of history professor Max Otto, who was a child in Germany during the second World War and whose life has been deeply affected by the subsequent guilt, most especially by the fact that he never knew exactly what his own father did during the war. As the book opens, he's grieving for his recently dead wife and planning on killing himself as soon as he's finished giving a paper at a local history conference. There he meets a young Australian academic, Professor Vita McLelland, and rediscovers his passion for life.

The rest of the book takes place in outback Queensland as Max spends a few weeks with Vita's Uncle Dougald. Max and Dougald get along very well, although - or perhaps because - they are both taciturn men, and the time they spend together ends up being far more profound and dramatic than they were expecting.

One of the interesting themes of this book was that of massacres. Max, although an innocent to World War Two's atrocities, feels deep guilt for them. And Dougald's ancestor was a powerful man in his Aboriginal community, another group of people who know all too well about massacres. And Max always yearned to write about such things as a historian, but was never able to because of his own guilt and took the easier path academically into medieval history.

I found this overall a bit too slow and stately, it focussed very much on the characters' inner lives, and I generally enjoy books that are less psychologically introspective. But the characters were interesting (although I never did quite understand Vita), and it was beautifully written. ( )
  wookiebender | Dec 28, 2009 |
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Haunting, meaningful and deeply moving, "Landscape of Farewell" is the story of Max Otto, an elderly German academic. After the death of his much-loved wife and his realisation that he will never write the great study of history that he always thought would be his life's crowning work, Max is contemplating putting an end to his life. Yet when he travels to Australia he forms an unlikely friendship with Dougald Gnapun, an Aboriginal elder, a friendship that not only saves his life and gives him new meaning and purpose, but teaches him of the profound importance of truth-telling in his reconciliation with his past, and country's past.… (more)

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