Maralinga Journal: Australia’s Least Likely Tourist Spot: A Test Site for Atom Bombs


Maralinga, which means “thunder” in the extinct Aboriginal language Garik, is an unlikely tourist destination. It is hot and arid, and at 700 miles west of Adelaide it is difficult to reach. When tours started in 2016, the village was accessible by only two flights a week from Ceduna, the closest “large” city, which itself has a population of fewer than 3,000 people.

But the Maralinga Tjarutja people hope to increase the number of visitors to the site this year. The Maralinga Tjarutja Administration, which operates the site, is increasing the number of regular flights to the village, increasing the length of the tour to three days and working with the South Australian government on a business plan to lure more visitors, said Sharon Yendall, the group’s general manager.

Don Richards, who served at Maralinga as a clerk in the Australian Air Force from 1963 to 1965, was one of the 1,000 tourists who have so far visited the site.

“I learned more in that tour than I really learned in the two years I was out there,” he said. “It was a pretty interesting place to be — a fairly motley crew lived at Maralinga once.”

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The first nuclear test at Maralinga was conducted in September 1956, and was as big as the bomb dropped by the United States on Hiroshima, Japan.

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National Archives of Australia

Today just four people live full time in Maralinga village, a veritable ghost town. Amid the old buildings are new lodgings built for tourists, complete with hot water and Wi-Fi.

In the 1950s and ’60s, at the height of the Cold War, 35,000 military personnel lived here. There was a permanent airstrip, then the longest in the Southern Hemisphere, plus roads, a swimming pool, accommodation and railway access.




The first nuclear test was conducted in September 1956, two months before the Melbourne Olympics. That blast — as powerful as the bomb that the United States dropped on Hiroshima, Japan — was the first of seven atomic bombs set off here.

But it was the so-called minor tests that were the most harrowing. Carried out in secret, the tests examined how toxic substances, including uranium and plutonium 239, would react when burned or blown up. To ensure tourists’ safety in the area, a zone was cleaned up by radiation scientists at the cost of more than 100 million Australian dollars, about $77 million.

Around one area tourists can visit are 22 major pits, each at least 50 feet deep and cased in reinforced concrete to prevent dangerous radiation from seeping out.

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The site of a building where nuclear bombs were built before testing.

Credit
Adam Ferguson for The New York Times

The site looks like a recently tilled garden bed, stretching out for hundreds of yards, in a near perfect circle. Dotting the red desert earth are shards of twisted metal. Aside from a few feral camels loping nearby, it is still and silent.

But on Oct. 4 1956, a “nuclear land mine” was detonated here, tearing a crater 140 feet wide and 70 feet deep into the earth.

The resulting atomic reaction took only a fraction of a second, but its effects on one Indigenous family would last decades.

In early 1957, Edie Millpuddie and her family were traversing the Great Victoria Desert plains. “The Millpuddies needed shelter for the night, and they came across this enormous hole where the ground was still warm,” Mr. Mathews said. “They drank rainwater from the bottom and lit a fire. All the rabbits in the area seemed disoriented; they were easy pickings for dinner before the family went to sleep in the crater.”

Two weeks later, Ms. Millpuddie delivered a stillborn baby.

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Trump Wants Back Into the TPP. Not So Fast, Say Members.


“We’ve got a deal” already, said Steven Ciobo, Australia’s trade minister, who added, “I can’t see that all being thrown open to appease the United States.”

[Read about President Trump’s reversal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which came at a gathering of politicians from farm states that stand to lose from any trade war with China.]

An early test of the potential for the United States to rejoin could come as soon as next week, when Shinzo Abe, Japan’s prime minister and an ardent champion of the pact, is to meet with Mr. Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla.

Mr. Trump’s renewed interest in the pact depends on whether the United States could strike a better deal than President Barack Obama did, Mr. Trump said in a Thursday night tweet. Still, negotiations with a group of longtime trading partners could hold appeal at a time of increasing tensions with China.

Mr. Trump faces a growing domestic backlash from corporations, farmers and others over fears that he is igniting a trade war with China, the United States’ largest single trading partner. Mr. Trump has warned that he could levy tariffs on $150 billion in Chinese goods, prompting Beijing to threaten retaliatory measures aimed at American soybeans, airplanes and other products.

Negotiating a new pact could take years. Still, rekindling negotiations could make it hard for China to play off the United States against its allies by promising to shift business from one to another if a trade war breaks out. It could be a way to assuage American farmers and businesses hurt by Chinese tariffs by assuring robust markets for American products in countries that signed onto the deal, like Japan, Australia and South Korea. It would give the pact a great deal more heft and help position it as an economic counterweight to China, which increasingly dominates the Asia-Pacific region.

More broadly, it signals to the region that the United States is not giving up on trade, despite Mr. Trump’s sometimes harsh words. Even as officials in other countries expressed skepticism on Friday, they said they would like to hear what Washington has to offer. “Japan would like to listen to the U.S.’s view,” said Mr. Suga, the Japanese official.

What Is TPP? Behind the Trade Deal That Died

On his first full workday in office, President Trump delivered on a campaign promise by abandoning the enormous trade deal that had became a flashpoint in American politics.


The barriers to a new pact are considerable. Many current members of the pact feel they already gave considerable ground to the United States to strike the original deal, particularly in sensitive areas like protections for pharmaceutical companies.

For its part, the Trump administration worries that the partnership will become a zero-tariff backdoor for Chinese goods into the American market. It worries that companies that have moved much of their supply chains to China could make components there, ship them to a member of the T.P.P. for assembly, then sell them in the United States tariff-free. It wants to toughen requirements for how much of the product is made within the T.P.P. country, which could make the goods less competitive.

Their worries focus largely on Vietnam, a member of the current version of the T.P.P. It has a large population, and a few big American companies, like Intel, have already invested heavily in setting up factories there that make products practically from scratch. But many other companies that are exporting goods from Vietnam rely heavily on imports from China. Vietnam’s huge garment industry, for example, relies greatly on fabric and accessories imported from China, according to garment manufacturing executives.

Vietnamese officials did not respond to requests for comment on Friday. Frederick Burke, managing partner for Vietnam at the American law firm Baker McKenzie, said that the Vietnamese government is “very aware of and focused on the issue of circumvention” in trade.

Renegotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, may not be quick. Mr. Trump’s trade negotiators already have their hands full this spring trying to complete changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement. They need to decide whether to extend temporary exemptions from the president’s new tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. Above all, they are locked in a series of increasingly acrimonious trade spats with China.

China is making its own outreach efforts in the meantime. Wang Yi, its foreign minister, will travel to Tokyo on Sunday. China has played up free trade talks with Japan and with South Korea, which is not a member of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Sheila A. Smith, a Japan expert at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, said the Trump administration may have realized that it does not have the leverage it thought to renegotiate a new trade deal with Japan, and that embracing the regional pact may be the best fallback.

The Trump administration “could walk right back in with the exact same deal from last year that they walked out of, and claim victory,” said Ms. Smith, who noted that the government of Mr. Abe “has been continuously and quietly encouraging the U.S. administration to take another look” at the pact.

One lingering question would be how China would react. The pact’s rules were designed in part to challenge China by encouraging members to loosen state support of their economies and relax trade rules — steps Beijing would have to take if it hoped to someday join the pact and enjoy its lower trade barriers.

China is not likely to be troubled by a United States move to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership as long as the Trump administration is doing so for strictly trade reasons, said He Weiwen, a former Commerce Ministry official and trade specialist who is now a senior fellow at the influential Center for China and Globalization in Beijing.

But the Chinese government is likely to be dismayed if the United States is reconsidering it as part of any revival of the Obama administration’s geopolitical pivot to Asia, or as part of any attempt to isolate China, Mr. He cautioned.

“That’s what we should be careful about,” he said.

Some current members of the pact greeted Mr. Trump’s comments on Thursday warmly. A spokeswoman for Singapore’s Ministry of Trade and Industry said it welcomed the American interest. “The TPP was designed to be an inclusive agreement, which is open to like-minded countries willing and able to meet its high standards,” the spokeswoman said.

Still, even American allies suggest a long road ahead if Mr. Trump moves forward.

“If the United States genuinely did wish to re-enter, that would trigger another process of engagement and negotiation,” Jacinda Ardern, the prime minister of New Zealand, said on television, adding that she still planned to go forward with the deal as-is. “It’s not just a matter of slotting into an existing deal.”

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Facebook Removes Popular Black Lives Matter Page for Being a Fake


The labor union has started its own investigation into the matter and has suspended Mr. Mackay and at least one other person, according to SBS News in Australia.

Some of the money raised through the page was funneled to Australian bank accounts, according to CNN, which noted that several online payment firms, including Patreon and Donorbox, had suspended fund-raising campaigns linked to the page. Donorbox said it had removed all pages related to the Facebook group in January.

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The Black Lives Matter movement’s official Facebook page.

PayPal confirmed that an account linked to the false Black Lives Matter page was no longer active on the payment platform. On Classy, a fund-raising site, a campaign linked to the sham page was “found not to be valid” and had been disabled, with the account owners receiving no money, Monica Finch, a company spokeswoman, wrote in an email.

The scheme was yet another blemish for Facebook as Mr. Zuckerberg starts the first of two days of testimony before Congress. Legislators are expected to grill him about the company’s role in a series of scandals, including a toxic bloom of fake news during the 2016 election and the harvesting of data from up to 87 million Facebook users by Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm connected to President Trump’s campaign.

Last week, in the run-up to Mr. Zuckerberg’s testimony, Facebook announced new measures requiring those who manage pages with large followings and pages related to political candidates and issues to verify their identities. The requirement is meant to give users more information about such pages, including any previous names they may have had.

“This will make it much harder for people to administer a page using a fake account, which is strictly against our policies,” the company said in a blog post on April 6.

Patrisse Cullors, a founder of the Black Lives Matters movement, wrote in a post on Twitter on Monday that she and her supporters had asked Facebook “over and over again” to shut down the fraudulent Black Lives Matter page, but that Facebook had balked at doing so.

“These fake BLM accounts and fake BLM people literally stealing money off Black Death is so stomach churning I can’t even begin to explain,” she wrote. “Glad it’s down now.”

Mr. Mackay also ran a Black Lives Matter Facebook group, which functioned like a forum where members had to request access, with nearly 40,000 participants, according to CNN.

Mr. Mackay told CNN that buying and selling domain names was a personal hobby but he declined to clarify his role in the Black Lives Matter page.

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Australia Shocked by Death of 2,400 Sheep on Ship to Qatar


Given the live animal trade’s importance to the state, critics said the video was unlikely to result in real change.

Live exports have been “an abject failure,” said Josh Wilson, a member of Parliament from Fremantle and a member of the Labor Party.

“There has been no independent supervision of these ‘death ships,’ and no penalties in relation to the mass death and suffering of sheep,” said Mr. Wilson, who blamed the governing Liberal Party for not adequately regulating the industry.

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The Awassi Express docked at the port of Fremantle, Australia, on Monday. Its owner, Emanuel Exports has been criticized before for its treatment of animals.

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Tony McDonough/Australian Associated Press, via Reuters

“I wouldn’t be surprised,” he said, “if the only serious change the exporter has made since this incident is to ban all staff from having smartphones on board.”

Animal activists said the government of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was unlikely to call for restrictions on the live animal trade. A previous government was criticized for suspending cattle exports to Indonesia in 2011.

“Ultimately we’d like to see a total ban of live export to the Middle East, but that’s probably not going to happen,” said Katrina Love, a member of Stop Live Exports, which held a protest in Perth on Monday.

However, she said, the government could ban live exports during the months of May to September.

Others have proposed retooling the local economy, which relies heavily on the sheep industry, to focus on butchering animals.

“We will also continue to look at how to encourage more onshore meat processing,” said Alannah MacTiernan, Western Australia’s agriculture minister and a critic of the Turbull government. She said the switch to butchering would “get more value out of our livestock and create more jobs in Western Australian abattoirs.”

But for Western Australian farmers, a move away from animal exports toward meat production would be disastrous.

“I would go broke, because I totally rely on the live export industry,” said Richard Brown, a sheep farmer in the Gascoyne region, approximately 600 miles north of Perth. “It’s my whole business.”

“I didn’t like the video,” he said, “but it’s an isolated incident.” Mr. Brown said the state did not have enough slaughter houses to support a shift to butchering.

Emanuel Exports, the shipping company, has previously come under fire over its treatment of animals.

More than 3,000 sheep died from heat stress in July 2016 while being shipped from Fremantle to Doha. The company’s executives were not charged or fined.

In a statement, Nicholas Daws, the director of Emanuel Exports, apologized.

“The footage televised by ‘60 Minutes’ is simply devastating,” he said, “and Emanuel Exports apologizes to farmers and the broader community for these absolutely unacceptable outcomes.”

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Adelaide Journal: Elon Musk Likes it Here. Will Other Tech Innovators Follow?


But this city of 1.3 million — with its aging population and unemployment rates that are often among the highest in the country — needs an even bigger jolt. Frustrations have been building for years as Adelaide’s factories shuttered, with Holden closing its plant last year, bringing an end to Australia’s auto industry.

The response is what’s interesting: Quiet Adelaide, a former industrial center now seen as a laid-back community of churches and retirees, is banging the table for change.

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Siemens, the German manufacturer, has opened a 5 million Australian dollar facility in Adelaide.

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Matthew Abbott for The New York Times

Last month, voters kicked out the Labour Party after 16 years of running South Australia, electing the more conservative Liberal Party and its leader, Steven Marshall, the owner of a furniture business, on the promise of economic growth.

The new government is even pushing for a new visa to draw foreigners who want to start businesses in South Australia — a break with national Liberal leaders who have restricted skilled immigration.

Even before that, Mr. Hajdu, 55, a Canadian transplant and co-founder of an Los Angeles-based incubator called Disrupter, was becoming Adelaide’s networker in chief. A talker in a T-shirt, the son of a free-market economist who founded a well-known Canadian think tank, he is among a crew of boosters constantly battling skeptics.

Call Adelaide a boring country town, as many Australians have for decades, and they’ll point to the beaches and wine regions nearby, emphasizing that housing here is more affordable than in Sydney or San Francisco.

Talk about the death of Australia’s automobile industry, and they’ll point to workers who have adapted by joining the city’s new start-ups.

Question Adelaide’s sophistication, and they’ll argue that because this is the first city in Australia to be founded by free settlers rather than convicts, the culture is more open-minded and creative.

“The Paris and Rome of today are not necessarily the Paris or Rome of tomorrow,” said Mr. Hajdu, who moved to Adelaide in 2015 and is now a paid innovation consultant for the South Australian government. “It’s total world transformation.”

Mr. Hajdu says things like that a lot: sweeping techno-prophecies that he seems to be beta testing for a larger audience.

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Tom Hajdu, a Canadian entrepreneur and musician, is South Australia’s chief adviser on innovation strategy.

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Matthew Abbott for The New York Times

He told me that his first business, tomandandy, based in New York, had “changed the way music production for media worked.”

He also told me (repeatedly) that he’s friends with Laurie Anderson, the composer and artist; that he makes great wine at the coastal property he shares with his wife and dog; and (repeatedly) that he moved to Australia on a distinguished talent visa, the same visa, he said, given to Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.

His smartphone has a cracked screen — and his official title is “chief innovator.”

Last year, South Australia’s Labor government gave him a three-year contract, paying him 300,000 Australian dollars a year (around $230,000) for innovation advice.

Is it worth it? South Australia’s new Liberal government declined repeated requests for interviews about that.

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A skate park in Adelaide, near the site where a Holden Automotive plant closed down last year.

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Matthew Abbott for The New York Times

One of Mr. Hajdu’s first projects involved helping Adelaide get what most of this wealthy, otherwise developed country lacks — superfast internet connectivity.

South Australia is now investing 7.6 million Australian dollars to roll out new fiber optic cable to 29 innovation precincts.

Officially, Adelaide is now the first non-American “gigabit city,” making it part of a program that connects innovators and researchers to their counterparts in other cities with advanced network infrastructure, including Chattanooga and Austin, Tex.

“Tom reached out to me soon after he moved to Adelaide and told me he was encouraging Adelaide to become a gig city, taking Chattanooga as a prime example of a city that had transformed its economy through affordable high-speed internet,” said Joe Kochan, a co-founder of US Ignite, the Washington nonprofit that runs the Smart Gigabit Communities program.

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A Chrysler Charger on display at the Tonsley Hotel. The defunct car factory has been reopened as a technology hub.

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Matthew Abbott for The New York Times

One afternoon, Mr. Hajdu pulled together a few of the people he sees as helping lead Adelaide’s revival.

Sitting at a rooftop bar with views of a skyline reminiscent of Tulsa, Okla., he introduced Terry Gold, an American who moved from Colorado to run a tech incubator.

Also with us were two South Australia government officials, the dean of the University of Adelaide’s computer sciences department and Alex Grant, the chief executive of a company called Myriota, which makes internet-connected devices for monitoring things like soldiers and natural resources.

Clustering universities, start-ups and government support is, after all, the Silicon Valley model.

The question is whether it can work for Adelaide.

Chattanooga has added tens of thousands of new jobs; in Adelaide, Myriota is growing, but from 11 employees to 30.

Inside Tonsley, the converted Mitsubishi factory, the company we visited, called Sage Automation, made devices used for self-driving cars that are put together in small batches — a far cry from the mass production of cars in the factory’s heyday.

There are some other signs of hope, Mr. Hajdu says. Sanjeev Gupta, the British billionaire, has said that he wants to turn the former Holden plant into a factory for electric cars.

But a tipping point like Chattanooga’s or Pittsburgh’s has yet to be reached. Unemployment is still rising. Around Tonsley, there are rundown stores and pubs struggling to stay open.

Inside, there are wide expanses of empty gray floors, waiting to be used.

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Australians Are the World’s Biggest Gambling Losers, and Some Seek Action


“Often, Australians don’t realize it,” she said of the ubiquity of the machines. “It’s like being a fish in water.”

Their operators are often prominent community entities: Woolworths, one of Australia’s largest supermarket chains, is the biggest operator of pokies in the country, controlling about 12,000 machines through its majority stake in the Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group, a large company that encompasses bars, restaurants and wagering.

Though the Woolworths Group doesn’t distinguish liquor sales from gambling revenues in its annual report, estimates suggest that it pulls more than 1 billion Australian dollars, or $770 million, in revenue from the machines each year.

Other community mainstays also operate machines. In Victoria, the heartland of Australian Rules Football, 90 percent of Australian Football League teams operate their own pokies, generating more than 93 million Australian dollars in revenue last year.

Pokies are regulated on a state-by-state basis, instead of by the federal government. Western Australia is the only state or territory that bans the operation of pokies outside casinos.

State budgets are increasingly made up of revenues from the machines, and legalized gambling, including from pokies, accounted for 7.7 percent of total tax revenues for Australian states and territories in 2016. In some parts of Australia, gamers can deposit 7,500 Australian dollars into a machine in one transaction, and can lose more than a thousand dollars per hour.

A study conducted by Dr. Rintoul comparing two regions outside Melbourne found that the less wealthy one had twice as many pokie machines, and more than three times the per capita losses.

“The people who can least afford to be losing large sums of money are losing the most,” she said.

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A “gamblers help line” sign in the men’s restroom at a gaming venue. In a country that has confronted other powerful industries — mandating graphic warnings on cigarette packages and cracking down on guns, for example — some wonder why gambling has escaped tougher regulation.

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Asanka Brendon Ratnayake for The New York Times

Dr. Rintoul described the casino-like methods used by venues to maximize revenue, including rewarding patrons with free food and drinks, and hiring part-time models as wait staff.

A visit to one gaming floor at a venue in Sunshine, the region Dr. Rintoul’s study focused on, revealed a busy gaming floor one recent Wednesday night. Gamblers placed “RESERVED” signs under their machines of choice, which Dr. Rintoul said reflected how frequent gamblers come to relate to the machines: picking favorites, and believing that a particular one can get “hot” or due for a win.

A few hours later, in Balaclava, a suburb on the opposite side of Melbourne, patrons filled the gaming room at an Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group venue open until 6 a.m. A large Woolworths supermarket across the road keeps foot traffic in the area high.

“We regularly had people tell us that they often ended up in a gambling venue even when they weren’t intending to gamble when they left the house,” Dr. Rintoul said.

In February, Andrew Wilkie, an independent Australian politician, published leaked documents from two whistle-blowers at Australian Leisure and Hospitality revealing that the company had been secretly collecting data on frequent gamblers, including their favorite sporting teams, their relationship statuses and when they had the most money to spend.

Gordon Cairns, the chairman of Woolworths, said that the company was “very concerned” about the revelations and that the matter was being reviewed by external auditors.

In a country that has confronted other powerful industries by mandating graphic warnings on cigarette packages and cracking down on guns, some wonder why gambling has escaped tougher regulation. Critics say politicians are increasingly afraid to confront the growing influence of the gambling lobby.

The Rev. Tim Costello, a spokesman for the Alliance for Gambling Reform, compares pro-gambling bodies to the National Rifle Association in the United States in their ability to sway politicians.

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In Australia, the businesses that house pokie machines usually resemble typical English pubs, replete with bars and dining areas, but with the addition of a dedicated gaming room.

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Asanka Brendon Ratnayake for The New York Times

Australians, he said, “say Americans have a blind spot on guns.”

“Here, we have a blind spot on pokies,” he added.

Pro-gambling groups frequently refer to Mr. Costello and other gambling opponents as “prohibitionists,” and are quick to point to support services they have developed for frequent gamers. They also argue that tighter regulation of pokies would lead to huge job losses at the venues that operate them.

The groups have increasingly flexed their muscles in state elections. Anti-gambling candidates who ran in Tasmania and South Australia this year faced a barrage of negative advertising from pro-gambling bodies.

In the run-up to the South Australian election, the Australian Hotels Association — which counts Australian Leisure and Hospitality as a member — donated to several opponents of Nick Xenophon, an independent whose new party, S.A.-BEST, vowed to cut in half the number of pokies per venue, and institute smaller betting limits. After positive early campaign polling, Mr. Xenophon and his party ultimately failed to win a single lower-house seat. It was the first election loss of Mr. Xenophon’s 20-year career.

“How much influence they wield, it’s unhealthy,” said Frank Pangello, Mr. Xenophon’s media adviser in the recent election.

“They bought an election in Tasmania, they bought one in South Australia,” Mr. Pangello added. “They’re like the N.R.A. in America: You take them on, they’ll crush you.”

The Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group declined to comment for this article or discuss whether it spent money on the Tasmanian and South Australian state elections. The hotels group did not respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Costello said that with governments so dependent on gambling revenues, it may be difficult to pass tighter regulation of pokies.

“The states are Dracula in charge of the blood bank,” he said.

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South Africa Says Australia Retracted Claim of ‘Persecuted’ White Farmers


Last year, the Australian government paid $53 million in damages to migrants who said they suffered abuse in the camps. Mr. Dutton, who controls immigration policy, has been a staunch defender of offshore detention and has argued that Australia should not accept refugees who would be a burden on the country’s social safety net.

With his comments on South African farmers, Mr. Dutton was wading into a volatile, racially tinged debate. South Africa’s long-governing party, the African National Congress, proposed the land expropriation amendment because most South African farmland remains under white ownership more than 25 years after the end of apartheid.

In an initial response to Mr. Dutton’s comments, Ms. Sisulu said that nongovernmental organizations had been distributing inaccurate statistics about the killings of white farmers and sowing panic.

On Tuesday, Mr. Dutton’s office released a statement countering Ms. Sisulu’s assertions that the Turnbull government had retracted his comments.

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A cross marks a road to a monument in Ysterberg, South Africa, that commemorates white farmers who have been killed. The issue of violence against farmers in South Africa has become a rallying point for white nationalists and the far right.

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Gulshan Khan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“The statement does not accurately reflect the prime minister or minister for foreign affairs’ position on this matter,” the statement said. “There was no rebuttal of the words of Minister Dutton.”

Mr. Dutton’s comments on the farmers drew sharp condemnation from refugee advocates who, citing his perceived indifference to nonwhite asylum seekers who are being held on Manus Island and Nauru, saw him favoring certain refugees because of their race.

“Refugee advocates found Dutton’s comments so alarming because we have a fundamental belief in a nondiscriminatory immigration policy,” said Jana Favero, who works with the Asylum Seeker Resource Center, which is based in Australia.

“The comments that Dutton made about how ‘they would integrate’ and that ‘they’re the sort of people we want coming to Australia’ insinuates that there are the wrong kind of people coming to Australia,” she added.

While Mr. Dutton’s remarks drew widespread criticism, they also struck a chord among some white nationalists for whom the plight of South African farmers had become a rallying point.

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Refugees Trapped Far From Home, Farther From Deliverance

The New York Times sent journalists into a contested detention camp in Papua New Guinea to investigate Australia’s refugee policy, and the resistance rising against it.



OPEN Multimedia Feature


In late January, Lauren Southern, a far-right Canadian commentator, published a trailer for her upcoming documentary “Farmlands” on the killings of South African farmers that featured dire warnings of an impending race war. The trailer carried the tagline “CRISIS. OPPRESSION. GENOCIDE?”

The issue has also been covered at length on AltRight.com, a website run by Richard B. Spencer, the American white nationalist.

In a television interview last month, Ms. Bishop, the Australian foreign minister, appeared to dampen talk of special visas for South Africans.

“I believe the humanitarian programs’ credibility comes from the fact that it is nondiscriminatory and that each application is assessed on its merits,” she said. “That’s been the case under the Turnbull government and as far as I’m aware, there are no plans to change that visa program.”

In the wake of Ms. Sisulu’s remarks about the retraction, the Australian Foreign Ministry released a statement saying the country’s visa system did not favor certain races.

“The prime minister and the ministers for foreign affairs and home affairs have been clear and consistent in reiterating that Australia’s current humanitarian visa program is nondiscriminatory, with each application assessed on its merits,” the statement said. “The program can accommodate those fearing persecution.”

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Feature: Is the Next Nobel Laureate in Literature Tending Bar in a Dusty Australian Town?


When I mentioned Murnane’s bartending to his old friend Imre Saluszinksy, a journalist in Sydney, he paused, then said: “Yeah, look, it’s bizarre. Somebody’s going to come to this godforsaken dry golf course and order a beer from a person who could be the winner of the next Nobel Prize for Literature?”

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A drawer in Murnane’s “chronological archive,” which fills much of his bunkerlike living space.

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Morganna Magee for The New York Times

Then again, for Murnane, who once expressed regret at not having simply allowed “discerning editors to publish all my pieces of writing as essays,” the author is always present in the text, and so for the enterprising scholar, there’s arguably legitimate hermeneutic value in buying a Carlton from the subject of your dissertation. Murnane’s life, his fiction and the landscape he inhabits — the beauty and isolation of the Victorian interior, calm seas of yellow grassland that conjure schoolbook images of the veld — are so inextricably entwined that to visit him in Goroke feels at once like a field trip and a close reading.

A few weeks after my own journey to Goroke had been arranged, but before I had left for Australia, I heard from a publicist at Murnane’s American publishing house: Could I send Gerald a text message? (After Murnane moved to Goroke, his sons insisted he violate one of the other longstanding strictures laid out in the Newcastle speech and purchase a cellular telephone.) Murnane was concerned because he hadn’t received word from me. I’d assumed, incorrectly, that he wouldn’t want to be bothered by a journalist unless necessary. But five minutes after I sent him a quick introductory note, I received a long reply. It began: “Very pleased to hear from you. I promise you abundant material. I have a reputation in some quarters as an aloof recluse but that’s only because I refuse to go to writers’ festivals and talk the fake-intellectual [expletive] that most writers talk. I’m wholly different and original and also affable and friendly when I’m with genuine unpretentious folk such as the old guys I play golf with every week.” After dispatching some scheduling questions, he ended the message, “Once again, I promise you an interview unlike any you’ve done before.”

In one of my favorite Murnane stories, “Precious Bane,” published in 1985, the narrator, an aspiring writer who worries about becoming an alcoholic, browses unhappily in a used bookstore. He carries around a list of authors in a notebook labeled “1900-1940 … Unjustly Neglected” and worries about his own legacy — a bit prematurely, as he hasn’t published anything yet. Then, because it’s Murnane, the plot, such as it is, turns inward, as the protagonist pictures a scene far in the future: the year 2020. (The story is set in 1980.) In his mind, he sees a man standing before a wall of bookshelves, gazing at the spine of the last remaining copy of a novel composed 40 years earlier. The man has read the book, but he’s struggling to remember a single detail from the text, anything, a line, an image. (This is a favorite exercise of the real-life Murnane.) An odd five-page digression follows, in which the narrator imagines the human brain as a Carthusian monastery, with monks in charge of preserving memories. Eventually, he returns to the imagined future reader, who has failed to recall anything from what is, of course, the narrator’s book: “The man fills his glass again and goes on sipping some costly poison of the twenty-first century. He does not understand the importance of his forgetfulness, but I understand it. I know that no one now remembers anything of my writing.”

Happily, though we’re only two years shy of his imagined dystopia, the Goroke symposium took place in the context of a belated surge of interest in Murnane’s work. Here in the United States, Murnane’s publishing history was spotty to nonexistent until Dalkey Archive, a small literary press, released his novel “Barley Patch” in 2011. This month, Farrar, Straus and Giroux will publish “Stream System,” Murnane’s collected short fiction, and a new novel, “Border Districts.”

The trickiness of categorizing Murnane’s work goes some way toward explaining why he’s not a household name, even among households with lots of books. Is he an outsider artist or a postmodern master? Both? Neither? As much as Murnane reveres Proust, his own elaborate memory palaces remain a genre unto themselves. On a sentence level, Murnane adheres to a militant grammatical precision and engages in repetition that verges on the incantatory (and that privileges the noun over the pronoun). It’s a hypnotic style, dryly funny, or at least aware of the ways in which its fussiness might be amusing. In 1990, The London Review of Books published a cranky letter from Murnane that read, in full: “Dear Editors, Frank Kermode quotes what he calls a very long sentence from Thomas Pynchon (LRB, 8 Feb, 90). The passage quoted is not a sentence. The passage consists of a sentence of 66 words followed by a comma and then a sequence of clauses and phrases that is neither a part of the sentence preceding it nor a sentence in itself.”

Murnane once described himself as a “technical writer” — meaning, he explained, that in his depictions of “the mental imagery that is my only available subject-matter,” he strove for the rigor and precision of a white paper. (He often refers to his stories as reports.) I’d say he’s more like a detective, pacing in front of a gigantic evidence board. A typical Murnane work of fiction unfolds like a procedural, often spinning out from a single, half-remembered image, something as simple as a jockey’s racing colors, as glimpsed on a youthful outing to the track in Bendigo, a city in Victoria. Other memories will follow — anecdotes, personal asides, funny or sad little stories within the story — and it can all seem digressive, until the methodical obsessiveness of Murnane’s self-interrogation becomes clear. He’s searching the furthest reaches of his memory for clues, hidden meanings, details that might have slipped away. The digressions turn out to be leads. And in the end, there’s no writing-workshop epiphany, but rather that thrilling moment when the circles and arrows linking up the photographs thumbtacked to the squad-room wall form a previously unseen web of connection.

For newcomers, the wide-ranging “Stream System” is the place to begin. Some of the stories assume more recognizable forms — for instance, the entire history of Australian colonialism becomes a concise, Borgesian parable about desire in “Land Deal.” Most of the other pieces feature self-conscious narrators who compulsively draw readerly attention to the text (“Boy Blue” begins “A few weeks ago, the person writing this story read aloud to a gathering of persons another story that he had written”) and could be read as fragmented, expressionistic memoirs in miniature. In “Velvet Waters,” the subject is failed romance; in one of the story’s funnier episodes, the shy, Murnane-like narrator tries to impress a love interest by telling her about a weekend trip to an art movie — unfortunately, it’s Ingmar Bergman’s “The Virgin Spring,” and he ends up going into great detail about the rape sequence. “Cotters Come No More” is a tribute to a complicated relationship with a favorite bachelor uncle who, in a lovely bit of imagery at the opening of the story, traps a fly under a glass, tosses it into a spider web “and then stands with his hands on his hips, observing.” Later, the teenage narrator recalls walks with his uncle on the family land, where

the chief event of the afternoon might have been his sitting down beside me on a hilltop, taking out of his trousers pocket the folded form-guide from The Age, pointing to a certain name among the fields of horses, and then fiddling with his wireless until I was just able to hear, above the crackle of static and the buzzing of insects in the grass, the call of a race more than a hundred miles away with the horse that my uncle had brought to my notice in the thick of the finish.

In a long appreciation in his recent collection of essays, Coetzee praised Murnane’s “chiseled sentences,” placing him among of the last generation of Australian writers to come to maturity when the country “was still a cultural colony of England, repressed, puritanical and suspicious of foreigners.” Murnane’s Australianness comes through most clearly in “The Plains” — considered his masterpiece by many — which follows an artist seeking patronage from wealthy landowners in a mysterious frontier town, hoping to film the unfilmable secrets of the titular landscape. The world Murnane describes is a dream-country, where battles are waged between rival schools of artists (the Horizonites and the Haremen) and coastal condescension is flipped on its head as the vast, unloved interior becomes a place of rich and bedeviling obscurity, where landowners in their baronial estates “pity the poor coast-dwellers staring all day from their cheerless beaches at the worst of all deserts” and express bafflement with “their awe at a mere absence of land.”

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Gerald Murnane outside his local Men’s Shed, on the main street of Goroke, Victoria, southeastern Australia.

Credit
Morganna Magee for The New York Times

When I spoke to Saluszinksy, a former professor of English who published a monograph on Murnane with Oxford University Press in 1993, he brought up the story “Precious Bane,” which is also included in “Stream System,” pointing out that the title is a phrase used by Milton to describe money, something “we need to get the things we want.” Saluszinksy went on, “I think for Gerald writing is a kind of precious bane. It’s a burden and a nuisance, almost a duty, having to explore the connections between the images in his mind. And he keeps telling us that he has done his duty, that this is it. But of course, to use, if you’ll forgive me, Derridean language, there’s always a supplement. There’s always an appendix. There’s always something left unsaid.”

My first day in Goroke, Murnane instructed me to pick him up at the local Men’s Shed, housed in a former bank. For the non-Australian reader, a quick explanation: A men’s shed is a communal workshop where members do things like repair shelves or bicycles, part of a national public-health initiative aimed at curbing depression among retired men. Murnane possesses few useful skills for a men’s shed, but the week after he moved to Goroke, the owner of the local service station invited him to join. He looks after the kitchen, cleans the toilet and serves as treasurer.

Murnane had been watching the street from behind the muslin storefront curtain, and he marched outside to greet me. He wore a plaid shirt tucked into light khaki trousers and had the loose, ruddy skin of an avid golfer of a certain age. A successful treatment for prostate cancer had left him unable to sleep without interruption, but he appeared sharp and full of vim.

“Your body adapts, like a soldier in the trenches,” Murnane said matter-of-factly. The shed wasn’t technically open, but Murnane led me past dusty workbenches scattered with tools into a modest lounge, where he put on a kettle and opened a jar of instant coffee. His health, he said, had been improving, and he felt “full of optimism,” and not just about his recovery. “My publishing history’s just so checkered with sudden reversals, ups and downs, confusions, wrong turnings, and at the end of my life, virtually, it seems like things are starting to work out,” he said.

Then he pulled out an envelope, on which he’d written a series of preliminary questions to ask me. They included “Are you at all interested in golf?” “Are you at all interested in horse racing?” and “What do you propose to do for lunch?” My answers (no, sort of, your call) seemed to satisfy him. “You might feel like you’re being overorganized, but this is how I do things,” Murnane said, leaning back in a chair. On a bulletin board behind him, someone had tacked up a photograph of a man at a pub drinking from a glass of beer the size of a trash barrel. The caption read, “I’m Only Going Out for One.”

Murnane moved to Goroke in 2009, after the death of his wife of 43 years, Catherine. Their eldest son, Giles, whom Murnane repeatedly described as a hermit, had come to Goroke years earlier, having chosen the town off the map for its cheap housing. Murnane had always been attracted to the country, and the first time he visited Giles, driving past the town graveyard, he had a premonition, “calmly and wordlessly,” he later wrote, “as one understands things in dreams”: That’s where my ashes will lie.

“I think you can probably see that I’m sane, but I say and believe things that insane people believe,” Murnane told me. “I don’t believe in a personal God, but I believe in the survival of the soul. And I get intimations and feelings.” Catherine had no desire to move from their home in the Melbourne suburbs, but when her doctor informed her that she had terminal lung cancer, she turned to Murnane and said, “Now you can go and live in Goroke.” Less than a year later, she was buried in the town’s cemetery. “And I came up here to live with my hermit son,” Murnane said. “Scholarly people who admire my books find it somewhat incongruous that I should live in a place like this. But I don’t mix very much with writers. We have very little to talk about. I find most of them pretentious. So it seems to me the most natural thing in the world that I should live here at this period in my life.”

Murnane and his son live on a residential street a few blocks away from the Men’s Shed. An unpaved alley lined with corrugated-tin fencing led to the back entrance. The place had a ramshackle quality. A corrugated-tin barn stood beside five squat reservoirs used to capture rainwater — the town’s water is not potable — and a lonely clothesline tree leaned crookedly in a cement courtyard surrounded by an uneven stone wall. Murnane lived in a studio behind the main house. Both buildings were constructed from unlined blocks of white sandstone quarried nearby, giving Murnane’s quarters, especially, a bunkerlike feel.

It’s difficult to overstate the lack of shared qualities between Murnane’s room and any recognized notion of a living area. There were nods in the latter direction: the kitchen sink and minifridge; the tiny bathroom; a wooden schoolboy’s desk, facing a blank wall in the corner, where Murnane writes. But the bulk of the room had been filled with Murnane’s archives: more than a dozen filing cabinets, lining three walls and containing thousands of pages of journals, letters, lecture notes and ephemera from every stage of his life. A separate row of metal storage lockers bisected the center of the room, adding to the jarring overall motif, a blend of fanatical organization and claustrophobia, as if a squatter had taken over a secluded wing of a research library. There was no bed. Murnane keeps a folding cot in his shower stall. A threadbare sleeping pad, meant for a tent, was stored atop the storage lockers along with some blankets.

Murnane began keeping the archives more than 50 years ago, both for posterity and to satisfy his own meticulous sense of order, and he has left strict instructions regarding their contents, which are not to be made public until after his own death and the death of his surviving siblings. (He has one brother, a Catholic priest, and a sister; another brother, who was born with an intellectual disability and was repeatedly hospitalized, died in 1985.) Nonetheless, Murnane opened the cabinets to give me a sense of their contents. His so-called Chronological Archive is stuffed with hanging files covering each period of his life and featuring headings like “I rebuff a wealthy widow,” “I fall out with an arrogant student of mine,” “Two women bother me,” “I decide that most books are crap,” “Hoaxes! How I love them!” and “Peter Carey exposed at last.” He also has multiple drafts of his 13 books; letters addressed, as in a time capsule, to a future Murnane scholar, whom he imagines as a young woman, and whom he addresses in the letters as “Fc,” for “future creature”; a notebook of 20,000 words titled “My Shame File”; a 40,000-word report on miraculous or unexplained events in his life; and a 75,000-word account of his dealings with everyone he has ever courted romantically or considered courting.

“There’s your seat,” he said, gesturing to a camping chair unfolded at the foot of his desk. It sat comically low to the ground. I settled in, the lockers containing every detail of Murnane’s mind rising on either side of me like canyon walls, and Murnane pulled out a list of agenda items he wished to discuss.

The list had been organized, I soon realized, in such a way that we would move in a counterclockwise direction around the room, stopping at various points to discuss objects of particular significance. One of the first items he pointed out, a poster covered with the racing colors of every jockey who had won the Melbourne Cup from its inception in 1861 until 2008, turned out to be part of his daily routine of memory exercises, which he compared to the offices, or hourly prayers, performed by Catholic priests.

Turning away from the poster and clutching his hands behind his back, he told me to pick a year. I offered 1970. “Nineteen-seventy,” Murnane said. “That horse was Baghdad Note. Emerald green, with white-striped sleeve and cap.” Mondays, he said, he recited the entire list in order. Tuesdays he went backward. Other days involved skipping around the poster in ways I didn’t quite follow. After that, he did the same with the 50 states of America and then recited passages in Hungarian, a language he’d learned at 56. He showed me a set of flashcards. The English side of the one I picked up read, “He was caught up in the enthusiasm.”

Murnane had started talking the moment I picked him up at the Men’s Shed, and he didn’t stop, with few exceptions, for the next 12 hours, until I left for my hotel, a room above a pub in nearby Natimuk. He spoke rapidly, in a futile effort to keep pace with the speed of his own thoughts, constantly interrupting himself with muttered asides — a quote from the symbolist playwright Alfred Jarry, a self-deprecating story about his haplessness with women, a gripe about a Publishers Weekly review from the mid-1980s. He accepted my own interruptions of his monologues with good humor and often delight at the prospect of a new digression. When he excused himself to use the toilet, he closed the bathroom door and raised his voice.

Even though their accents are nothing alike, something about the way Murnane spoke reminded me of Michael Caine, or at least of the East London gangsters Caine once played. His voice, clipped and nasal, had a bantam toughness, and his sentences (in life, not literature) make regular detours from formidable erudition into the slangy and profane. He described a cheapskate he knows as “mean with money, the [expletive],” a reputedly promiscuous girl of his youth as “a rough sort of tart.” He took special pleasure in revisiting old grudges, but could also be casually impolitic. On Raymond Carver: “I met him. He came to Australia once. The second word he said to me was [expletive]. I thought, You’re too dumb to have written what you wrote.”

We came to a map of Victoria. Murnane estimates that his family moved a dozen times before his 20th birthday, always in and around greater Melbourne and often in flight from gambling debts incurred at racing meets by his father, Reginald, described to me by a friend of Gerald’s as “a wastrel.” Murnane pointed out Murnane Bay, a notch on Victoria’s southern coast said to be named after his grandfather, a prosperous dairy farmer: “Nasty old [expletive] of a bloke. Tom. No one liked him. Well, my father worshiped him, for some reason. I hated the guy.” Despite all his time spent there as a boy, Murnane never learned to swim. “The water gets in my eyes, I panic, that’s why I don’t have showers,” he said. (He washes himself, he explained, standing at the sink.) “That’s where I learned to hate the sea,” he went on, “and to look inland toward the plains.”

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Murnane’s map of New Eden, a fictional country he created.

Credit
Morganna Magee for The New York Times

At 18, Murnane entered a seminary. He lasted only three months and lost his faith by his early 20s; the lure, more than God, had been the idealized notion of a monastic writing life. He’d been reading Thomas Merton, the American Trappist monk, and envied such an ordered existence, so pure in its devotion. As a teenager, he dreamed of becoming a poet, in part because he assumed writers of prose possessed an understanding of human behavior, which he believed he lacked. “I don’t know what anyone is thinking,” Murnane told me. “People are a mystery to me.” He spent 13 years as a public servant, teaching in primary schools and working as an editor in a government office, and he married Catherine, who also worked as a teacher, in 1966, when he was 27. They settled in an unfashionable northern suburb, where she supported his decision to quit his day job and take care of their three sons, snatching free moments to work on his fiction and supplementing the family income with the occasional grant.

By the time he published “The Plains,” Murnane had begun teaching creative writing at the Australian equivalent of a community college, but despite the novel’s critical success, he maintained an ambivalent distance from the literary scene. He still did most of his writing at an ironing board set up in his kitchen, because his family’s home was so crowded for space.

The novelist Helen Garner told me in an email that she first met Murnane at a literary festival in Adelaide in 1986. She won an award, and after the presentation, Murnane quietly introduced himself and asked, somewhat agitated, if he could put a question to her: Had she received word of her award in advance? Yes, Garner replied. “His face darkened, and he turned away muttering,” Garner recalled. “I didn’t know where to put myself, thinking he was unable to conceal his anger at not having won the prize. But he pulled himself together and explained that he had never before traveled outside his home state of Victoria, that he hated traveling and never wanted to go anywhere — against all his principles and natural inclinations he had come all this way to Adelaide (I think by train) ONLY because he’d thought his book (which I think must have been “Landscape With Landscape”) had a very good chance of winning the prize. … His explanation was so sincere, and his distress at having been betrayed into acting against his inner self so genuine, that I felt very warmly toward him, and have done ever since, in my very distant acquaintance with him.”

As we circumnavigated his room, Murnane sipped from a plastic bottle containing a suspiciously cloudy beverage. It turned out to be water mixed with vinegar. (His doctor had instructed him to drink more water, but he didn’t like the taste.) Around 4:30, as he does every day, Murnane switched to beer, a slightly sour, high-alcohol-content pale ale he brewed himself, originally to save money, though now he’d grown partial to it. His golfing partner, the daughter of a friend from the Men’s Shed, had invited us over for dinner. Before we left, Murnane settled into his desk chair and rubbed his eyes, his unruly eyebrows squirming above his fingers.

“Even though I’ve lived what some people would call a sheltered life,” Murnane said, “I love how — I don’t know if it’s a misquote or what, but Kafka is once supposed to have said, ‘If you stay in your room, the world will come to you and writhe on the floor in front of you.’ I came here to Goroke intending to stay in this room. And the world is writhing in front of me.” Editors, scholars, journalists, Murnane said, “they all come up here to see how I live.”

Well, but not just that, I thought, looking around. A visit to Murnane’s room made me think of the one-way intimacy that occurs between reader and writer — that feeling, after finishing a poem or novel, of having temporarily inhabited a consciousness not your own. Only here, I had the rare opportunity to experience that sensation in a physical space. (As in his “chiseled” paragraphs, in Murnane’s archive everything has its place: While showing me the chronological files, Murane pointed at a cabinet drawer and said, “My wife dies over here.”) Stepping into the hermetic confines of Murnane’s world so perfectly mirrored his fictional project that it felt like stepping into the pages of one of his books.

Murnane’s golfing partner, Tammy Williams, lives with her two children in a cozy, art-filled home about five minutes away. (To be clear, everything in Goroke is five minutes away.) Pulling up a chair at the kitchen table, Murnane nodded in my direction and said: “He tasted the home brew. Didn’t make any comment. But he got it down. He didn’t spit it out.”

Williams, looking appalled, quickly poured me a glass of wine.

“Did you see the way he lives?” Williams asked, as she began to arrange a buffet. Murnane appeared delighted by the teasing. Williams shook her head and said, “I told Gerald once, ‘You might be a famous writer, but you’re a crap golfer.’ ”

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Murnane’s workspace in his home in Goroke. The typewriter is one of three on which he writes his novels, using only the index finger of his right hand.

Credit
Morganna Magee for The New York Times

During my time in Goroke, I never met Murnane’s son Giles. Murnane said he slept during the day and mostly ventured out at night to pick up snacks or fast food in Horsham, a city about 45 minutes away. Despite the “hermit” cracks, he spoke tenderly, and in protective terms, of Giles; ailing or troubled children appear in several of his stories, including, most powerfully, in the opening story in “Stream System,” “When the Mice Failed to Arrive,” in which the protagonist, a primary-school teacher turned househusband, struggles to explain suffering to a son hospitalized with asthma. Catherine also dealt with serious illnesses throughout her life, often leaving Gerald to care for the children.

“Gerald had a hard time in the city,” Chris Gregory, a friend and former student, told me in an email. “He isn’t the sort of person to tell you his problems, and I’m not the sort to ask about them, but it’s clearly been hard, working in semi-obscurity, kicking against the pricks, dealing with a sometimes-difficult family life, his wife’s painful death.” Ivor Indyk, Murnane’s longtime Australian publisher, believes the recursive mode of his fiction, its circularity and baroque structure, was a way for him to deal with “hot material — hot for him, because it’s emotionally charged,” Indyk told me. “There are events in his past that he’s still coming to terms with.”

On my last day in Goroke, Murnane and I visited Catherine’s grave. The simple marker read:

Murnane, Catherine Mary

B. Albury, NSW 31-5-1937

D. Heidelberg, Vic 19-2-2009

He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped off the top of the stone. It was the last day of January, summer in Australia, and the shorn barley and wheat fields we’d driven past had seemed to pixelate in the bright afternoon sunlight.

Ever one for spatial precision, Murnane pointed to the spot on the ground where Catherine’s ashes had been interred, forming a small, boxlike shape with his hands. “And I’ll be buried where you’re standing,” he said.

I took a step back.

Murnane had other things he wanted to show me: the golf club, a lake on the outskirts of town. Back at the Men’s Shed, he introduced me to some of the other members, Rob, Taffy, Rossco, former truck drivers, farmers, mechanics: “Now, this man says he likes a lot about Australia, but he has found a few faults with Australian men,” Murnane said, gesturing to me. “He thinks they swear too much, they tell too many dirty jokes and they drink too much. So I said, ‘Don’t worry, Mark, I’ll take you to a place where none of that happens.’ ” The guys chuckled, and Murnane waggled a finger at them: “So you [expletive] [expletive] better not make a liar of me!”

Murnane, who has said “Border Districts” will be his final novel, did not look like someone who missed his old life. In fact, he had recused himself from the literary scene once before. Back in Melbourne, as his books after “The Plains” became more experimental and inward-looking, he felt like an increasingly marginal figure — so much so that, in 1991, he decided to quit. Over the next decade, Murnane published only a single story collection, “Emerald Blue,” comprising mostly older material; the final sentence of the final story, “The Interior of Gaaldine,” reads, “The text ends at this point.” (“Emerald Blue” sold 600 copies, affirming his decision.) For extra cash, he took a job bundling newspapers and magazines in the early hours of the morning. He returned to writing only in 2001, after Indyk, the publisher of an independent literary press, offered to give him a home.

What exactly did Murnane get up to during his lost decade? It turns out he left a clue in “The Interior of Gaaldine.” The first half is a comic telling of a drunken journey by boat to Tasmania for a literary tour, made under duress by a writer who hates to travel. The story takes a turn into the supernatural after the protagonist’s arrival in Hobart, where, after he passes out in his hotel room, a ghostly messenger delivers a briefcase. It contains thousands of pages of writing — not, as the protagonist fears, an unpublished manuscript, but details of a complex horse-racing game devised by its owner, who has spent decades playing the game alone in his room. The protagonist wonders if “the author of the pages wanted to meet me in order to persuade me to write a different sort of fiction in the future.”

Though Murnane never became a problem gambler like his father, one of his most cherished childhood memories involves a horse-racing game he played with a set of colored marbles. (To this day, he keeps the marbles in a jar in his room, where they occupy a place of pride just behind his writing desk.) And the strangest thing about “The Interior of Gaaldine” is that not only the obviously autobiographical first half of the story, but the entire thing, basically, minus the ghost and the briefcase, is true. Murnane, working in secret beginning in 1985, developed a wildly more intricate version of his boyhood racing game, which is how he spent most of his retirement, and how he fills many of his evenings in Goroke.

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One of Murnane’s daily memory exercises is to run through the racing colors of every jockey to have won the Melbourne Cup from 1861 to 2008, as shown on this poster in his home.

Credit
Morganna Magee for The New York Times

He calls the project his Antipodean Archive. Inside its cabinet’s drawers, there were maps of the two fictional countries where the races take place (including timetables for the major train networks), detailed sketches of racecourses and notebooks filled with the names and racing colors of the 1,500 full-time trainers, illustrated with head shots cut from newspapers and Murnane’s own childlike drawings of the racing silks. An index listed every horse to have raced in the Antipodes, and there were handwritten, single-spaced results of the hundreds of races, as in a racing form. His method of determining race outcomes, too complex to get into here, involves, of course, books: A randomly chosen sentence generates points for a particular horse based on the number of vowels and consonants, combined with a banked system of points Murnane can award to favorites.

As we flipped through the folders, I thought of the great Robert Coover novel “The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop.,” about a recluse who invents a proto-fantasy-baseball game with players who become more real to him than any live human, and also about the work of outsider artists like Henry Darger, the reclusive Chicago janitor who secretly crafted his own elaborate, obsessive mythology illustrated with hundreds of paintings and collages. As Murnane explained the world he had created, he sounded as if he were speaking of a real place: “Now in New Arcady, which is the smaller island, there are only 12 racecourses. They have races about five days a week up in the North.” At one point, Murnane closed his eyes, clenched his hands into fists and broke into song. It was the New Eden national anthem, which he’d written and composed himself.

Oceans foaming, mariners roaming, never a home in perilous seas. …

The lyrics “are not my best shot,” Murnane acknowledged. “They’re meant to sound like something people would compose in 1880.”

For years, he kept his project under wraps, even from his wife. “It’s an embarrassing thing for an old man, or a middle-aged man at the time, that he plays kids’ games,” Murnane said. “But they’re not kids’ games.” To help me better understand, he showed me a letter he’d written to “Fc,” his future creature. It read, in part: “All the fiction I ever wrote or read was a preparation for this, my true life’s work. In book after book of mine, I wrote about the contents of my mind, setting all my images on paper so that I could have done with them; could sweep them out of sight and leave my mind free for the infinite imagery of the Antipodes.” His reports from the interior, from his own interior, had always skirted around the edges of a central image winking at the far reaches of his consciousness, a pair of his dream jockeys crossing a finish line. How could he ignore them?

Next year, to coincide with his 80th birthday, Murnane will publish a book of poetry and outtakes from a previous novel. But other than the poems, composed in Goroke over the last few years, Murnane says he has retired once again. “If I woke up tomorrow morning feeling a tremendous pressure to write, I would write,” Murnane told me. “But I probably won’t. I almost certainly won’t.” Instead, he spends his evenings recording the results of imaginary races for his archive. Surely it must contain a germ of a narrative, an editor once insisted. “But, of course, several, no, thousands of narratives are embodied in the Archive,” Murnane wrote to “Fc.” “There are at least as many narratives as there are horses and jockeys and trainers and owners.”

I no longer felt as if I’d stepped into a story by Murnane, but rather one by Borges: a story about a brilliant writer who discovers that the purest form of writing is, in the end, to write nothing at all.

Gingerly, I prodded Murnane. All his books had been so deeply personal, but also something any reader could enter into. But with the Antipodean Archive, Murnane had created countries where only he could travel. Did he harbor any second thoughts about diverting so much of his creativity into such a private pursuit?

Murnane smiled. He could see another connection forming. From one of his cabinets, he retrieved a typewritten manuscript page from his poetry collection. Read it, he instructed. That’s where we’d stop.

The poem, after explaining the archive over many lines, “the perfect summation/of my lifelong belief in the sport of horse-racing/as a better source of inspiration/than opera, theater, film, you name it,” ended like this:

Reader, if you’re urged

to learn more about this imagined world,

outlive me and my siblings and visit the library

where my archives end up. You’ll find there a filing

cabinet full of the sort of detail

that I wanted to include in this poem but failed.

You’ll read thousands of pages, though you’ll never see,

unfortunately, what they revealed to me.

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Astonishing Admission of Cheating Rocks Australian Cricket


Bancroft’s actions — which have parallels in baseball, where pitchers have been known to use saliva or a nail file to manipulate the ball — were caught by cameras during the third day of a five-day match in South Africa.

Cricket Australia, the sport’s governing body in the country, removed Smith as captain for the remainder of the match, an unprecedented decision. He was also stripped of his match fee by the International Cricket Council, the global organization that oversees the sport, and was banned for one Test match.

As senior officials from Cricket Australia flew to South Africa to investigate, it was unclear whether Smith would ever captain the country again.

“This is a shocking disappointment. It’s wrong,” said Malcolm Turnbull, Australia’s prime minister, who noted that cricket stars were held in higher regard than politicians. “Our cricketers are role models and cricket is synonymous with fair play,” Mr. Turnbull said. “How can our team be engaged in cheating like this? It beggars belief.”

Adam Gilchrist, a former Australia international, said his country’s cricket team had become the “laughingstock” of the sporting world.

An acknowledgment of cheating would be notable in any sport. But it is particularly shocking in cricket, which has always professed a certain moral sanctimony.

The preamble to the official laws of the game states, “Cricket is a game that owes much of its unique appeal to the fact that it should be played not only within its Laws but also within the Spirit of the Game.”

The notion of “the spirit of cricket” is regularly invoked at all levels of the game and the International Cricket Council has an award named after that notion to celebrate acts of sportsmanship.

It is a comforting image for the sport, but it is also a myth. The game has seen gambling and match-fixing scandals from its earliest years, in the 18th century. Corruption, among both players and officials, continues to haunt the game; there are also concerns about bad behavior on the field from players and the threat of doping.

Photo

The Australian player Cameron Bancroft, right, was questioned by umpires on Saturday, the third day of the test match against South Africa. Bancroft later admitted to using yellow tape to scuff the ball.

Credit
Gianluigi Guercia/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The logic of ball tampering — what Bancroft is accused of doing — is to try to alter the surface of the ball so it is more likely to act unpredictably when bowled, making it harder for the batsmen to hit.

Allegations of illegally tampering with the ball are nothing new. They date to at least 1921, when the England captain J.W.H.T. Douglas threatened to report his Australian opponent Arthur Mailey for using resin to grip the ball more firmly; Mailey is said to have countered by saying that Douglas had picked at the ball with his thumbnail.

In the last 25 years, international cricketers have been punished for tampering with the ball in many ways — including keeping dirt in their pockets, rubbing a cough lozenge on the surface, scuffing the ball on the zips of their trousers and even biting the ball, which the Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi was found guilty of in 2010.

Even mints and sweets can be used for nefarious ends. When England won the Ashes, a competition between England and Australia, in 2005, the English player Marcus Trescothick later admitted that he had applied saliva to one side of the ball after sucking mints. That tactic is thought to affect the flight of the ball by making one side slightly shinier.

And when Australia last hosted South Africa in a series in 2016, the South Africa captain Faf du Plessis was caught sucking mints and then using his saliva to polish the ball on one side, again to try to alter the flight and bounce. He was later fined his match fee.

The incidents highlight how hard it is to eliminate ball-tampering, which is notoriously difficult to prove — adding saliva is legal, but doing so while sucking mints is not.

Some have suggested that the laws should be revised, perhaps by legalizing some aspects of treating the ball, like using saliva after sucking candy or mints, that are especially hard to police.

Yet the actions of Bancroft — and, especially, Smith in instructing him — are seen as falling well beyond the normal ambiguity of the law. The Australians’ actions amounted to nothing less than flagrant cheating.

Even worse, perhaps, is the sense of what it revealed about the team, adding to simmering concerns about how far the Australian side are prepared to go in pursuit of an edge. During the recent Ashes victory against England, Australia came under criticism for what is known as sledging — the cricket equivalent of trash-talking — and short pitches, which involve bowling the ball hard into the ground to make it bounce in the direction of the opponent’s head.

James Sutherland, Cricket Australia’s chief executive, said, “All Australians, like us, want answers.”

David Richardson, the chief executive of the International Cricket Council, said that senior Australian players had acted “clearly contrary to the spirit of the game” and that the cheating risked “causing significant damage to the integrity of the match, the players and the sport itself.”

For those involved, the financial consequences, as well the moral outrage, may be felt for years to come. On Monday, Smith announced that he was resigning as captain of the Rajasthan Royals, a team in the Indian Premier League that recently signed him to a contract that would pay him nearly $2 million a year.

The pain is unlikely to be limited just to the players involved. Cricket Australia may also be caught in the maelstrom. Since footage of Bancroft’s ball tampering emerged, several sponsors have already spoken out. Sanitarium, a food company and a leading sponsor, termed the events “a shameful moment for Australian sport.”

The timing is particularly unfortunate as Cricket Australia is currently in negotiations over the broadcast rights to Australian cricket for the next five years.

Perhaps the most poignant reaction was that of Jim Maxwell, considered the voice of Australian cricket. On air during the third Test match, Maxwell fought back tears. “I’ve started to become more and more offended by the arrogance of some of the players in the way they behave,” he said, terming the ball tampering “so blatant, so stupid, naïve and immature.”

In Cape Town, Australia’s humiliation extended to the result. The side lost by 322 runs to go 2-1 down in the four-match series. As they head to Johannesburg for the final match, Australia are playing for much more than just a tie in the series.

Continue reading the main story

Astonishing Admission of Cheating Rocks Australian Cricket


Bancroft’s actions — which have parallels in baseball, where pitchers have been known to use saliva or a nail file to manipulate the ball — were caught by cameras during the third day of a five-day match in South Africa.

Cricket Australia, the sport’s governing body in the country, removed Smith as captain for the remainder of the match, an unprecedented decision. He was also stripped of his match fee by the International Cricket Council, the global organization that oversees the sport, and was banned for one Test match.

As senior officials from Cricket Australia flew to South Africa to investigate, it was unclear whether Smith would ever captain the country again.

“This is a shocking disappointment. It’s wrong,” said Malcolm Turnbull, Australia’s prime minister, who noted that cricket stars were held in higher regard than politicians. “Our cricketers are role models and cricket is synonymous with fair play,” Mr. Turnbull said. “How can our team be engaged in cheating like this? It beggars belief.”

Adam Gilchrist, a former Australia international, said his country’s cricket team had become the “laughingstock” of the sporting world.

An acknowledgment of cheating would be notable in any sport. But it is particularly shocking in cricket, which has always professed a certain moral sanctimony.

The preamble to the official laws of the game states, “Cricket is a game that owes much of its unique appeal to the fact that it should be played not only within its Laws but also within the Spirit of the Game.”

The notion of “the spirit of cricket” is regularly invoked at all levels of the game and the International Cricket Council has an award named after that notion to celebrate acts of sportsmanship.

It is a comforting image for the sport, but it is also a myth. The game has seen gambling and match-fixing scandals from its earliest years, in the 18th century. Corruption, among both players and officials, continues to haunt the game; there are also concerns about bad behavior on the field from players and the threat of doping.

Photo

The Australian player Cameron Bancroft, right, was questioned by umpires on Saturday, the third day of the test match against South Africa. Bancroft later admitted to using yellow tape to scuff the ball.

Credit
Gianluigi Guercia/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The logic of ball tampering — what Bancroft is accused of doing — is to try to alter the surface of the ball so it is more likely to act unpredictably when bowled, making it harder for the batsmen to hit.

Allegations of illegally tampering with the ball are nothing new. They date to at least 1921, when the England captain J.W.H.T. Douglas threatened to report his Australian opponent Arthur Mailey for using resin to grip the ball more firmly; Mailey is said to have countered by saying that Douglas had picked at the ball with his thumbnail.

In the last 25 years, international cricketers have been punished for tampering with the ball in many ways — including keeping dirt in their pockets, rubbing a cough lozenge on the surface, scuffing the ball on the zips of their trousers and even biting the ball, which the Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi was found guilty of in 2010.

Even mints and sweets can be used for nefarious ends. When England won the Ashes, a competition between England and Australia, in 2005, the English player Marcus Trescothick later admitted that he had applied saliva to one side of the ball after sucking mints. That tactic is thought to affect the flight of the ball by making one side slightly shinier.

And when Australia last hosted South Africa in a series in 2016, the South Africa captain Faf du Plessis was caught sucking mints and then using his saliva to polish the ball on one side, again to try to alter the flight and bounce. He was later fined his match fee.

The incidents highlight how hard it is to eliminate ball-tampering, which is notoriously difficult to prove — adding saliva is legal, but doing so while sucking mints is not.

Some have suggested that the laws should be revised, perhaps by legalizing some aspects of treating the ball, like using saliva after sucking candy or mints, that are especially hard to police.

Yet the actions of Bancroft — and, especially, Smith in instructing him — are seen as falling well beyond the normal ambiguity of the law. The Australians’ actions amounted to nothing less than flagrant cheating.

Even worse, perhaps, is the sense of what it revealed about the team, adding to simmering concerns about how far the Australian side are prepared to go in pursuit of an edge. During the recent Ashes victory against England, Australia came under criticism for what is known as sledging — the cricket equivalent of trash-talking — and short pitches, which involve bowling the ball hard into the ground to make it bounce in the direction of the opponent’s head.

James Sutherland, Cricket Australia’s chief executive, said, “All Australians, like us, want answers.”

David Richardson, the chief executive of the International Cricket Council, said that senior Australian players had acted “clearly contrary to the spirit of the game” and that the cheating risked “causing significant damage to the integrity of the match, the players and the sport itself.”

For those involved, the financial consequences, as well the moral outrage, may be felt for years to come. On Monday, Smith announced that he was resigning as captain of the Rajasthan Royals, a team in the Indian Premier League that recently signed him to a contract that would pay him nearly $2 million a year.

The pain is unlikely to be limited just to the players involved. Cricket Australia may also be caught in the maelstrom. Since footage of Bancroft’s ball tampering emerged, several sponsors have already spoken out. Sanitarium, a food company and a leading sponsor, termed the events “a shameful moment for Australian sport.”

The timing is particularly unfortunate as Cricket Australia is currently in negotiations over the broadcast rights to Australian cricket for the next five years.

Perhaps the most poignant reaction was that of Jim Maxwell, considered the voice of Australian cricket. On air during the third Test match, Maxwell fought back tears. “I’ve started to become more and more offended by the arrogance of some of the players in the way they behave,” he said, terming the ball tampering “so blatant, so stupid, naïve and immature.”

In Cape Town, Australia’s humiliation extended to the result. The side lost by 322 runs to go 2-1 down in the four-match series. As they head to Johannesburg for the final match, Australia are playing for much more than just a tie in the series.

Continue reading the main story