Strandloper

Strandloper

Strandloper is a novel by English writer Alan Garner, published in 1996. It is based on the story of a Cheshire labourer, William Buckley.

Plot summary

Buckley was convicted on a trumped-up charge of trespass in 1803 and transported to Australia, where he escapes, only to collapse from exhaustion in the outback on the grave of an Aboriginal shaman. He is discovered by aborigines, who regard him as the reincarnation of Murrangurk the shaman, an idea reinforced by Will's epilepsy. Will learns their language and ways, and fits perfectly the role of their healer and holy man. Thirty years later he intervenes to prevent the slaughter of a group of English soldiers and is granted a pardon. He returns to his native Cheshire, where in a closing sequence he dances Aborigine style across his home land, fulfilled and transformed.

Major themes

The book is rich in idiom, folk expressions and word play, as well as aboriginal motifs both visual and conceptual. Time is treated as cyclic, not linear, and experience is approached in immediate terms rather than preconceived constructs. The landscape of Cheshire and his life there live in Will's mind as an anchor of memory that he never forsakes. His return home is an overwhelming experience.

Literary significance & criticism

The book is seen by critics of Garner's work as related in style and structure to Red Shift (1973) and Thursbitch (2003). In all three time is fragmented, since it is approached through the characters' inner lives in terms of both memory and experience, and it is their idea of their identity that shapes the experience.

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