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Death of a River Guide: A Novel
ISBN 0802138632 / 9780802138637 / 0-8021-3863-2
Publisher Grove Press
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In this brilliant, labyrinthine second novel, a drowning man named Aljaz Cosini is granted visions of his family history stretching into the distant past--even as he revisits his final days along the remote and treacherous Franklin River. Richard Flanagan's protagonist has been away from Tasmania for the last decade. Sick, lonely, and financially strapped, he returns to his hometown and soon runs into an old colleague known as Pig's Breath, who offers him a low-paying stint as a river guide:
I can see that Pig's Breath knows Aljaz well enough to see that Aljaz desperately wants to visit the Franklin River country, that there is a need in him, which Pig's Breath does not have, to go back there, and that this is his only way of doing it. And while Aljaz sits there trying to look as if he is chewing over numbers, Pig's Breath can tell that what he is in fact doing is smelling the river, hearing it run, watching the rain mists rise from its valleys, drinking its tea-coloured waters from his cupped hands.Flanagan (The Sound of One Hand Clapping) has been compared to Faulkner for his loving attention to place, but his narrative talents are more akin to those of GŁnter Grass. There are echoes of The Tin Drum in the picaresque tale of Aljaz's emergence from the womb, wrapped in the caul that suggests second sight. Throughout, a series of similarly magical occurrences lends sparkle, if little illumination, to these hardscrabble lives in the Tasmanian wilderness. All of which goes to explain why Death of a River Guide is an unusually rich novel, and one of Australia's most distinguished literary exports in recent years. --Regina Marler [via]