The Imago

E. L. Grant Watson and Australia

By Suzanne Falkiner

The Imago presents a fascinating portrait of English writer E.L. Grant Watson, whose experiences as a young man in Australia at the beginning of the 20th century shaped his later years as a novelist. Enlisted in 1910 by a Cambridge University-sponsored expedition of Western Australia, Grant Watson served as a biologist and research aide to celebrated anthropologists A.R. Brown and Daisy Bates, recording Aboriginal marriage customs. He was deeply affected by his time in the bush and among remote Indigenous communities, taking notes and writing frequent letters about the land and its people. For Grant Watson, the desert was a frontier of rare beauty, surprising in its biodiversity. He adapted to the unforgiving climate and communed with its remoteness, taking his cues from those already living there. Back in Europe, and in the company of ex-pat literati, Grant Watson abandoned his career in science. Encouraged by the likes of Andre Gide, Gertrude Stein, and D.H. Lawrence, he began writing fiction, drawing heavily on events, places, and people he had encountered in the Australian outback. Initially observed through the analytical lens of a scientist, his observations of landscape would later serve as a recurring metaphor for spiritual isolation and notions of the unconscious in his novels. Biographer Suzanne Falkiner sifts through Grant Watson's personal correspondence, government records, and previously unpublished accounts to resurrect an important but largely forgotten writer, whose awe and reverence of the Australian continent deserves recognition by a new audience of readers.

512 pages

Publication Date: 2/15/2011
Format: Paper
ISBN: 9781921401558