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Fredy Neptune

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  117 ratings  ·  16 reviews
A riveting, beautiful novel in verse by Australia's greatest contemporary poet, winner of the 1996 T. S. Eliot Prize.

I never learned the old top ropes,
I was always in steam.
Less capstan, less climbing,
more re-stowing cargo.
Which could be hard and slow
as farming- but to say

Why this is Valparaiso!

Or: I'm in Singapore and know my way about
takes a long time to get stale
Paperback, 272 pages
Published January 10th 2000 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 1998)
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4.06  · 
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 ·  117 ratings  ·  16 reviews

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Jul 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I do not give five stars lightly. (Now that this review has been transferred to Good Reads, which doesn't give half stars, this opening is a little empty...I have had to move many 4.5 star ratings to five, since I couldn't drop them back to 4. Either way, you get the point...)

This verse novel is probably the most startling reading experience I have had in some time. It is a literary achievement on a scale with Homer: imagining Homer was a contemporary Australian that is, and, if someone had told
Jan 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
'End with Fredy Neptune!' Les Murray told his biographer Peter Alexander. 'It is the story of the Twentieth Century, it is the big story, the fate of the Germans and the fate they visited on others'. I’d forgotten exactly what I’d read about Fredy Neptune in that literary biography – I only recall it was the one book of Les Murray I had to read. So I did and found a novel in verse, a novel that covers the first half of the 20th century through the peregrinations of the eponymous hero, the story ...more
Jul 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
This was quite the read. Murray has a knack for capturing humanity, and his narrative poem ends up being about just that--the need to see humanity in everyone. Early in Book 1, Fredy is forced to work a German naval vessel in World war I and, while in Turkey, witnesses a group of Armenian women burning. His horror at this atrocity causes him to develop a leprosy-like ailment and loose all connection to his body--he has no sense of touch and suddenly develops great strength. He lives through the ...more
Sep 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
Witnessing the immolation of a group of Turkish women at the start of World War I, an unbearable event he could not prevent, Fredy Boettcher loses all sensation, becoming a ‘numb hulk’ who must remind himself to maintain the illusion of being able to feel.

The story follows Fredy, an ethnic German-Australian seaman, from the start of the First World War through to the close of the Second. The poem chronicles his shipboard jobs, his wild adventures, narrow escapes, and flights from police states.
David Ranney
Nov 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
I mean, you are honoured. Someone offers you their life,
because this wasn't an affair that was being offered,
not by her brother. You will see her? he pressed me.
It was awful. Curiosity, and being young then, and dreams
in spite of grey dreadful knowledge. Of being cursed.
Tell her, I said, and walked up and down, tell her,
tell Sha-kira, is it? I mustered it all in my mind,
that I'm honoured. Truly. But I'm leaving. I am a wandering man.
An Australian seaman witnesses a group of women being burned al
Peter Mongeau
Jun 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Reviewed by Joseph Thompson on

Fredy Neptune is a novel in verse, written by the acclaimed and prolific Australian poet, Les Murray. It tells the tale of Friedrich Boettcher, a sailor who loses his sense of touch after witnessing women being burnt during the Armenian Genocide while travelling with a German vessel in the First World War. This trauma is a blessing and a curse throughout the rest of the novel as he drifts from job to job, country to country, circumnavigating the
Jul 25, 2007 rated it it was amazing
The fastest-paced historical adventure novel ever. And therefore the best. An Australian sailor of German descent witnesses a war atrocity and as a result, loses all feeling and gains superhuman strength. And has more adventures than Sinbad and Odysseus combined. And sleeps with Marlene Dietrich. And then, just when you think no more can possibly happen, the ending nails you through the heart. And then the final line: there's more in life than can be expressed in language. Yeah, right. (A novel ...more
Jul 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
It's a novel, it's poetry, it's history, it will force you to get a dictionary to understand Aussie english,'s just plain kickass.
May 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
I found this verse novel on a charity table at a community centre, and snapped it up with glee. It's been a long time since I've dipped into Les Murray's poems, but I remain a huge fan. I met him once, at a poetry reading, and to my everlasting regret I grumbled about 2 or 3 poems I didn't like (or perhaps didn't understand) instead of thanking him for the great number which have given me so much pleasure. I have read one other of his verse novels, "The boys who stole the funeral", and enjoyed t ...more
Jan 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: from-real-shelf, 2019
It's easy to follow the general arc of the story, and to understand what happens, but the exact meaning of the words is often beyond my reach (perhaps the vernacular is opaque). Overcoming that challenge, however, presents immeasurable rewards. In 250 pages, Les Murray conjures up an era of world wars and chronicles an unusual character's journey through it. After witnessing a horrendous sight in Turkey during WWI, Fredy Boettcher loses his sense of touch (i.e., he feels no pain) and gains super ...more
Big Pete
Jun 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The longest poem of the 20th century, and one of the best. I'm not quite sure if it's still the longest Australian poem - I think Homer Rieth may have now claimed that honour (and possibly second place as well), now.
Murray's command of the language is as powerful as in his other works, but here it is stripped down, every sentence driving the work forward, devoid of any of the pretention you often find in a lot of modern poetry. It's both a gripping narrative and a profoundly thoughtful work.
Sep 07, 2007 rated it liked it
SO much good language in this book: "Your face looks to me like the parts of a wet dog." Totally captivating. I don't understand though why it was a novel "in verse" - it's written entirely in prose sentences; they were just broken down to look different. Maybe I just don't understand the form. In any case - excellent. Though the last line I find undermining and empty. Read it for the details.
Balázs Pataki
Sep 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
Enjoyed it very much and can remember lines even though I read it 14 years ago (I'm not praising my memory but Murray's language). Tends to become a little boring at times once the WW1 parts are over.
Dec 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
a great, epic tale told in the much underrated form of the verse novel.
Apr 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
The most brilliant, awe-inspiring meditation on alienation I've ever read.
Jared Griffin
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Nov 29, 2014
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May 12, 2014
Peter Clare
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Dec 02, 2014
Yen-Rong Wong
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Jan 01, 2016
Sean Stanley
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Apr 29, 2009
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Jun 08, 2012
Cecilia Dunbar Hernandez
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Apr 04, 2016
Jessica Francis
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Nov 22, 2014
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Jan 21, 2008
Caitlin Thomson
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Oct 26, 2009
Samuel Regueira
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Mar 22, 2019
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May 25, 2011
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Nov 11, 2015
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Nov 13, 2015
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Verse Novels 1 3 Feb 28, 2013 03:43AM  

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Leslie Allan Murray (born 1938) was the outstanding poet of his generation and one of his country's most influential literary critics. A nationalist and republican, he saw his writing as helping to define, in cultural and spiritual terms, what it means to be Australian.

Leslie Allan Murray was born in 1938 in Nabiac, a village on the north coast of New South Wales, Australia, and spent his childho
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“When preparing for Book One, I talked to a couple of psychiatrists about psychosomatic phenomena, neuroses and dissociative conditions, for example the so—called hysterical blindness suffered by many who saw the Killing Fields in Pol Pot’s Cambodia: their eyes objectively see, but they are not aware of it and are blind because they believe they can’t see. One specialist told me that among modern Western people, ’metaphorical’ symptoms such as Fredy or those Cambodians evince are much rarer now than earlier in the twentieth century or before. Nowadays most people are better equipped by education to verbalise their neuroses, and have lots of jargon in which to do so. For most of the dissociative dimension, I could draw on things I knew from within myself.” 2 likes
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