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Alexis Wright’s award-winning classic Carpentaria: “a swelling, heaving tsunami of a novel—stinging, sinuous, salted with outrageous humor, sweetened by spiraling lyricism” (The Australian)
Carpentaria is an epic of the Gulf country of northwestern Queensland, Australia. Its portrait of life in the precariously settled coastal town of Desperance centers on the powerful Phantom family, leader of the Westend Pricklebush people, and its battles with old Joseph Midnight’s renegade Eastend mob, on the one hand, and with the white officials of Uptown and the nearby rapacious, ecologically disastrous Gurfurrit mine on the other. Wright’s masterful novel teems with extraordinary characters—the outcast savior Elias Smith, the religious zealot Mozzie Fishman, the murderous mayor Bruiser, the moth-ridden Captain Nicoli Finn, the activist Will Phantom, and above all, the rulers of the family, the queen of the garbage dump and the fish-embalming king of time: Angel Day and Normal Phantom—who stand like giants in a storm-swept world.
Wright’s storytelling is operatic and surreal: a blend of myth and scripture, politics and farce. She has a narrative gift for remaking reality itself, altering along her way, as if casually, the perception of what a novel can do with the inside of the reader's mind. Carpentaria is “an epic, exhilarating, unsettling novel” (Wall Street Journal) that is not to be missed.
About the Author
Alexis Wright is a member of the Waanyi nation of the southern highlands of the Gulf of Carpentaria. The author of the prize-winning novels Carpentaria and The Swan Book, Wright has published three works of non-fiction: Take Power, an oral history of the Central Land Council; Grog War, a study of alcohol abuse in the Northern Territory; and Tracker, an award-winning collective memoir of Aboriginal leader Tracker Tilmouth. Her work has been translated into Chinese, Polish, French, and Italian. She held the position of Boisbouvier Chair in Australian Literature at the University of Melbourne between 2017–2022. Wright is the only author to win both the Miles Franklin Award (in 2007 for Carpentaria) and the Stella Prize (in 2018 for Tracker).
Wright breaks all the rules of grammar and syntax to sweep us along on a great torrent of language that thrills and amazes with its inventiveness and humor and with the sheer power of its storytelling… Like the Gulf Country itself, this is big enough to lose yourself in. Once in, you may never want to be found. — Sydney Morning Herald
Carpentaria is that rare kind of novel which opens up an entire world to the reader.
— Australian Book Review
Wright's award-winning second novel [Carpentaria] offers in Phantom one of the most compelling literary protagonists since Odysseus and will surely stand as a masterpiece of modern English-language literature.
— Library Journal
Carpentaria is a big book, more than 500 pages, big enough to enter a world, to feel as if you once lived in a town called Desperance.
— The Age
The writing is the best in the country, some of the best in the world; we call to mind Alexis Wright when they talk about our country’s great literary voice. — Tara June Winch - The Guardian
Wright’s vision is dark, humour tar-black, narration irrepressible, language roiling and rococo. All life, as in Balzac, is here, on a scale far bigger than anything the caffeinated Frenchman envisioned: Wright gives us the living and the dead, material and non-material, Country and people; all the masters dreamed of, and all they neglected to; the entire human (and non-human) comedy. . . . The sense is of Country cheerfully accommodating everything: high and low, chaos and epiphany, farce and deep time. Long after the lesser concerns of contemporary fiction have ceased to matter, the work of Alexis Wright will remain. — Declan Fry - The Guardian (Australia)
An epic, exhilarating, unsettling novel. — Wall Street Journal
Imagine Gabriel García Márquez’s fictional town Macondo set on dustier ground and with considerably more magic—and aboriginal mythology—worked into the magical realism, and you have some approximation of Wright’s fluent tale. . . . A latter-day epic that speaks, lyrically, to the realities and aspirations of aboriginal life. — Kirkus Reviews
A swelling, heaving tsunami of a novel: stinging, sinuous, salted with outrageous humour, sweetened by spiralling lyricism and swaggering with the confident promise of a tale dominated by risk, roguery and revelation. — The Australian
By the end of the book you’ll be seduced by its Dreamtime logic, and probably persuaded by its passionate political and ecological message. It’s not an easy read, but if you want to know the real Australia, persevere. — The Daily Telegraph (UK)
Rarely does an author have such control of her words and her story: Wright’s prose soars between the mythical and the colloquial. — Publishers Weekly
There is hope here in these stories—the big ones and the little ones in between—but like Norm, you’ll need to dive in and almost drown in them to find it. Like Will, the reader is on a quest. Like Truthful the copper, you won’t know quite what to believe. And like Elias, you’ll emerge from this astonishing novel, sodden but illuminated, and with part of your brain left somewhere in the Dreamtime. — The Independent (UK)
Alexis Wright’s Carpentaria is a masterpiece of the art form, a novel of immense accomplishment that combines local storytelling with national history, interweaving themes of conquest and subjugation with the struggle between indigenous and foreign civilizations. Most importantly, this work of art is composed in the most exquisite literary style, making someone like me who writes novels as a profession feel absolute awe and admiration