The Plains: Text Classics
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

The Plains: Text Classics

3.92 of 5 stars 3.92  ·  rating details  ·  110 ratings  ·  34 reviews
A nameless young man arrives on the plains and begins to document the strange and rich culture of the plains families. As his story unfolds, the novel becomes, in the words of Murray Bail, 'a mirage of landscape, memory, love and literature itself'.
ebook, 192 pages
Published April 1st 2012 by Text Publishing (first published 1982)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Plains, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Plains

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 407)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
A man can know his place and yet never try to reach it.

Plains, Plains, everywhere...

To admire the beauty, to love the words, to enjoy the journey, to respect a talent and to retain the hope of finding a rare visual on the endless stage of nature is what one can aim for after reading a book like this. With every alternate sentence I encountered a sublime combination of bewildering revelation and an unremitting mystery that is usually found in the divine creations of the cosmos but what is seemin...more
Oct 06, 2013 Brian rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Brian by: M. Sarki
“Anyone surrounded from childhood by an abundance of level land must dream alternately of exploring two landscapes – one continually visible but never accessible, and the other always invisible even though one crossed and recrossed it daily.”

Attempting to describe the magnificence of Murnane’s The Plains using language is futile.

Murnane writes of “bewildering vistas of vistas”. His protagonist casts a spooling line attempting to snare meaning; his catch is an illusion that can’t rightly be nam...more
This book has startled me.
Nothing I have read before has prepared me for it.
And yet it contains many notions that are familiar; it is the angle of the viewpoint that is new.

My mind was teeming with a host of questions from the beginning of the reading: who or what exactly is the nature of the narrator? What does the word ‘plains’ mean in this piece of writing? Who in truth are the plainsmen and women?

Not a soul in this district knows who I am or what I mean to do here..not one has seen the vi...more
Ian Paganus
"The Man in My Mind Who Sits in the Fields of Grass"

"I watch the man in my mind writing with his pencil in his notebook while he sits in the fields of grass."

Gerald Murnane, "In Far Fields", 1995

"Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Plainsmen Fiction"

This is a beautifully written novella. Every sentence has been carefully and lovingly crafted. You don't often encounter writing as good as this.

Only it contains within it a hoax (view spoiler)...more
Stephen P
Standing between the towering buildings of Musil"s two volumes of The Man Without Qualities I sat on a stone staircase . Having just finished the first volume I yearned for the second. I thought of a break, not due to boredom but as a matter of pacing, refreshment, so as to retrieve all the treasures awaiting me in volume two. I chose the thinnest novel off my shelves. A hundred and ten pages. A two day read.

I had not read Murnane before except for GR Friends M. Sarki's and Proustitutes intelli...more
This is a hard book to write about, and that is a good thing. There are some wonderful reviews up here already and I suggest you turn to them for more of a sense of the text. I seem to be unable to do much but ramble a bit about the thinking it inspired for me, and this thinking (which is ongoing) has taken up more time than the reading itself. This is, once again, a good thing.

"Twenty years ago, when I first arrived on the plains, I kept my eyes open. I looked for anything in the landscape th...more
Ian Paganus
Formal Review

My more formal review of this novel is here:


The purpose of these notes and comments (and they are really nothing more than that) is to help build a picture of the intellectual, cultural and political context and subtext of this unique and uniquely Australian novel, so that readers not familiar with the landscape or culture of Australia can get some additional insight into the novel.

Despite or regardless of its Australian origins, the n...more
Lynne King
I have read superb reviews on this book and it is a wonderful description of life in Australia but it is not for me. Purely words I'm afraid. Perhaps it is the stage of life I'm going through at the moment in that I'm not ready for it and maybe in the future?

I've tried skim reading through the book looking for that magical literary utterance but I'm unable to find it. Sad, especially for me as I was really looking forward to reading this book.

To me, there are words and a further collection of wo...more
God I love y'all. Only on Goodreads could a book like this one, from Australia, from the 80s, having almost no plot (and certainly no resolution), and mostly long forgotten, enjoy a minor resurgence. I actually have people to talk to about this obscure and elusive book.

Speaking of which, this is one of the most elusive books I've ever read. Consider that it is an allegory/parable and yet of what we will never know for sure, though there are some very strong theories. Consider also its slightly m...more
I started this in the mid-1980s and have finally finished it. You might think that this must be a very long book – whereas it is a very short novella. Murnane writes sentences. He writes one sentence, then he reads over that sentence to ensure it is as good as he can make it, then he writes another sentence.

Given that White Australia is a little over 200 years old it is probably not surprising that Australians aren’t terribly sure what it means to be Australian. Americans have had much the same...more
If everything that passed between us existed only as a set of possibilities, my aim should have been to broaden the scope of her speculations about me.

As admirers of Proust, Gerald Murnane, Anne Carson and W.G. Sebald are three of the brightest examples of how Proust's work might look in English in the 21st century. The three are remarkably similar in ambition, their strengths and weaknesses, and I am surprised no one from the major book reviews has pointed this out. But I shouldn't be... what d...more
M. Sarki

The "annual revelations" that our narrator describes near the end of this fine book gives credence to what came before. The evidence contained decanters of hard liquor, stiff-backed uncomfortable chairs, tents staked in tall grasses on vistas of windowless walls, and little said or exampled but more of the same in a serious study never concluded in which libraries remain for all students and scholars to be seen and read of the vast and mounting compilation...more
M. Sarki
The "annual revelations" that our narrator describes near the end of this fine book gives credence to what came before. The evidence contained decanters of hard liquor, stiff-backed uncomfortable chairs, tents staked in tall grasses on vistas of windowless walls, and little said or exampled but more of the same in a serious study never concluded in which libraries remain for all students and scholars to be seen and read of the vast and mounting compilations of a history regarding these interior...more
Gerald Murnane is an Australian writer, and in this book he writes about the interior of the continent, the narrative being strange, almost surreal, vague in tone with few handles for the reader to grasp – no names, no specific locations, not even a definite time period that the narrative relates. It’s very odd and beguiling. In some ways, more because of the ambiance created than the details or even the genre, his writing reminds me to Sheri Tepper’s novel, Grass. One senses that Murnane was wi...more
The Plains is a narrative of obsessive recursiveness situated somewhere between the hilarious awkwardness of Kafka and the compulsive interrogation of Bernhard. Akin to Kafka, too, The Plains operates as an allegory. Or, more accurately, it has the feel of allegory, though deciphering the lessons in its parables is no easy task. To quote the book, it often seems “…a convenient source of metaphors for those who know that men invent their own meanings.”

The Plains is a work of unknowing, a travelog...more
Oct 07, 2007 Jim rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who don't think a book needs to be all about telling a story
The Plains is a dense story about a filmmaker who spends years researching a film on the seemingly featureless Australian plains country and its people. In place of the salt-of-the-earth sheep farmers one might expect to inhabit central Australia the narrator encounters an idealised world filled with aesthetics and intellectuals. Rather than explore the Plains that have inspired him to make the long journey from Outer Australia, however, the man barely leaves his hotel or his mentor's library an...more

This is the first book by Gerald Murnane that I have read, and now as I am more familiar with his work I realise that what I wrote back in 2007 is rather naive. But still, for what it's worth, here it is:


This is a strange book. Gerald Murnane won the 1999 Patrick White Award for under-recognised writers, and until good old Text republished this 1982 novella, it was out of print. It seems to be a parable or an allegory but of what I am not sure. For some reason it reminds me of Kafka, but I...more
Oct 19, 2010 Richard rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Richard by: Trevor McCandless
Shelves: fiction
Oh, dear — I wished I could say I liked this. But this is a slow moving, quietly speaking novel whose main attraction is the allegory behind the words. That story in front is a somnolent narrative about nothing much happening for twenty years. I have enough trouble with allegory when it's hidden behind an interesting story, but couldn't handle this combination. Ah, well...
Mark Broadhead
Like Kafka crossed with Calvino (particularly 'Invisible Cities'). It has the same weakness familiar to those two writers: characters are just vessels for communicating ideas/parables. But such wonderful ideas and beautiful writing.
Gerald Murnane was a teacher of creative writing. I find it hard to imagine what a class of his would have been like. His fiction is so anti-fictional, so private, so dismissive of the 'rules' of user-friendly writing (while obsessing endlessly over rules of its own invention) that I can't imagine what he would have to say to a young writer - except, maybe, "stop writing" (the theme of his latest book).

(I would like, even more, to have been a fly on the wall when he was teaching English to appre...more
Not a soul on this website knows who I am or what I mean to do here . . . not one has seen the view of the novel that I am soon to disclose.

Yes of course read the Plains. Take a day off work. Take it on a long international flight. Lock yourself in a room and read it.

There are a very few authors who, after I've read just one of their books, I realize I'm going to have to read every single thing they've published. Saul Bellow was one. Alejo Carpentier is another. Now I've been so trapped by Gera...more
Alex Bennetts
REAL GOOD. One you're going to want to reread, not because its dense (its a swift 30,000 words), but because there is so much to glean from these sentences. I've never underlined as many lines as I did with The Plains. It gets a little philosophically-minded in the second half, but its never a knotted cock. Some deep laughs, some thinking hat moments.

A keeper.
Tiffany Blue thompson
Onof the most difficult things I have ever read. The stream of conscience writing style with few breaks in the long sentences is very hard to persever through.
Kobe Bryant
This book is like the Heart of Darkness only instead of the jungle it's about the Australian outback
Not my cup of tea - had to abandon after 30 odd pages.
A combination of several things, but most notably J. M. Coetzee���s recent article on Gerald Murnane in the New York Review of Books, made me realize that it was high time to revisit Murnane���s work. In particular, because I found Inland to be a very repetitive work which was better fleshed out in the rather complementary Barley Patch, I thought that a more generous immersion into this enigmatic (and often elusive) writer���s work would do me well.������

The Plains is considered by many critics...more
Travis McGuire
I read Inland and Barley Patch before reading this wonderful little book. Like any of these other books, Murnane is a bit unconventional. The great thing about this book is that it's as if you've been made privy to a person's innermost self at a particular moment in time. I loved what little story-line there was, but even more than that I loved the descriptions and sense of self. The last three quarters of The Plains is full of philosophical quandaries, but they aren't the sort to bore you or fe...more
Enchanting, curious and remarkable.
Kris McCracken
This is an odd, quiet little book. Ostensibly a tale of a young filmmaker who travels to an imagined country located deep within Australia, whereupon his failure to make a film is his most profound achievement.

More of a metaphysical parable about appearance and reality than a traditional novel, Murnane takes his time exploring the nature of tradition and cultural horizon. It moves deliberately slowly, and takes its time meditating on the central premise. Does it work?

Not for this reader.
Really enjoyed this Aussie book. Its quite surreal and ponderous, and is ultimately a surreal observation, or even criticism of anglo, rural Australians. The story is about a film maker who investigates a society of people who live in a barren place called 'the plains'. The writing is very dry and ponderous, reminded me a bit of Borges and Herbert Reads 'the green child', and hints towards an unobtainable love and the act of observation itself.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 13 14 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Cardboard House
  • Impossible Object
  • John the Posthumous
  • Wake in Fright: Filmed as The Outback
  • Textermination
  • The Vivisector
  • Fortunes of Richard Mahony
  • Pitch Dark
  • The Women In Black
  • Imaginative Qualities of Actual Things
  • The Robber
  • The Dig Tree: The Story of Bravery, Insanity, and the Race to Discover Australia's Wild Frontier
  • Satantango
  • Mateship With Birds
  • Dark Places
  • Dead Europe
  • Capricornia
  • Night Games: Sex, Power and Sport
Murnane's first two books, Tamarisk Row (1974) and A Lifetime on Clouds (1976), seem to be semi-autobiographical accounts of his childhood and adolescence. Both are composed largely of very long but grammatical sentences.

In 1982, he attained his mature style with The Plains, a short novel about a young filmmaker who travels to a fictive country far within Australia, where his failure to make a fil...more
More about Gerald Murnane...
Barley Patch Inland Invisible Yet Enduring Lilacs A History of Books Landscape with Landscape

Share This Book

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »