What he had been searching for was not the perfect religious order but the perfect landscape…From that moment on he was a poet in search of his ideal landscape.
Lost to the world for more than four decades, A Season on Earth is the essential link between two acknowledged masterpieces by Gerald Murnane: the lyrical account of boyhood in his debut novel, Tamarisk Row, and the revolutionary prose of The Plains.
A Season on Earth is Murnane’s second novel as it was intended to be, bringing together all of its four sections—the first two of which were published as A Lifetime on Clouds in 1976 and the last two of which have never been in print.
A hilarious tale of a lustful teenager in 1950s Melbourne, A Lifetime on Clouds has been considered an outlier in Murnane’s fiction. That is because, as Murnane writes in his foreword, it is ‘only half a book and Adrian Sherd only half a character’.
Here, at last, is sixteen-year-old Adrian’s journey in full, from fantasies about orgies with American film stars and idealised visions of suburban marital bliss to his struggles as a Catholic novice, and finally a burgeoning sense of the boundless imaginative possibilities to be found in literature and landscapes.
Adrian Sherd is one of the great comic creations in Australian writing, and A Season on Earth is a revelatory portrait of the artist as a young man.
Gerald Murnane was born in Melbourne in 1939. He is the author of thirteen works of fiction, including the internationally acclaimed novel The Plains and most recently A Season on Earth, as well as a memoir, a collection of essays and a volume of poetry. He has won the Patrick White Award, the Melbourne Prize for Literature, an Adelaide Festival Award, a Victorian Premier’s Literary Award and, for Border Districts, a Prime Minister’s Literary Award. Murnane lives in Goroke, in western Victoria.
‘Gerald Murnane seems to be winning the wider regard his devotees have always known he deserved…A Season on Earth is more like other novels, or more like a novel, than the fictions to come, but Murnane is already determined to make his own forms…[It is] not simply an idiosyncratic take on the Australian Catholic upbringing, but a portrait of an artist as a young man, in which one false vocation has to die so that a true vocation can take its place.’ Age
‘A Season on Earth recalls us to the truth that Murnane’s avant-gardism emerges out of a resolutely conventional soul…Now that [the novel’s] excised half has been returned, we’re granted a fuller sense of Murnane’s original aims…The comedy here is no less wicked in deployment, but the edge is sharpened…Ludicrous and hectic as [Adrian] Sherd’s casting around for some stable sense of self may be, there is something moving in the efforts he makes…We see an artist inventing himself from scratch…[By the end] Sherd has not yet pinpointed those regions his mature art would explore. What he has learned is that they lie somewhere in the inland empire of his imagination.’ Monthly
‘Murnane’s early writing, as shown here, is accessible and often humorous in his own dry way…A Season on Earth could be recommended as an ideal jumping-off point for readers new to Murnane and his particular way of looking at the world.’ Books + Publishing
‘Reading Murnane, one cares less about what is happening in the story and more about what one is thinking about as one reads. The effect of his writing is to induce images in the reader’s own mind, and to hold the reader inside a world in which the reader is at every turn encouraged to turn his or her attention to those fast flocking images.’ New York Times
‘Murnane is quite simply one of the finest writers we have produced.’ Peter Craven
This touching, semi-autobiographical coming-of-age novel from Murnane (Border Districts) presents the original vision of what became his second novel, 1976's A Lifetime on Clouds. Two previously unpublished sections are now added to the funny, stirring chronicle of the adolescence of Adrian Sherd. In 1950s suburban Melbourne, Adrian is fixated on sex. To appease his Catholic guilt and cure himself of the "sins of impurity" he commits alone, Adrian decides to devote himself to a girl he sees every day on the train. Though he never speaks to her, he vividly imagines a complex married life together that doesn't really alter his fixation on sex. So, he decides to become a priest, joining the Catholic Charleroi order as a junior seminarian (a section that proves essential for understanding how Murnane evolved from a sad, young seminarian into a committed literary aesthete). He later changes his mind, opting instead to join the Cistercians, which offer him better landscapes to peruse. But once he is back home in Melbourne, he changes his vocation yet again. Murnane's protagonist is absolutely unforgettable, and the author himself, whose name has been appearing on Nobel Prize contender lists recently, only adds to his exceptional body of work with this wonderful novel.