A Country in Mind
I knew at that moment, with clarity, that if I gave in to panic I could drown. It would be that simple – a loss of control, and I would drown in this tight dim rocky chamber.
We had left details of our route with friends, but, against the usual walking protocol, had altered our proposed route to enter the gorge instead. We would have been engulfed by this location, so in place as to have become invisible.
After a period of loss, and much change, Saskia Beudel began walking. Within eighteen months she had walked in the Snowy Mountains, twice along the south-west coast of Tasmania, the MacDonnell Ranges west of Alice Springs, the Arnhem Land plateau in Kakadu, the Wollemi National Park in New South Wales, and in Ladakh in the Himalayas. But she kept returning to the gorges of central Australia.
The book that emerged tells stories from Australia’s desert centre, examines the entanglement of Aboriginal and European cultures, remembers POW camps in Indonesia during World War II, and relives childhood epiphanies in a haunting collection of landscapes while tracing family secrets across the globe. Saskia Beudel powerfully captures the enigmas of displacement, belonging and the intricacies, often strikingly at odds with one another, of Aboriginal and settler understandings of the desert environment.
A Country in Mind was shortlisted for the Adelaide Festival Literary Awards.
‘There’s a sense that country and its complex and chaotic inscriptions have written Beudel’s text, and that this text has written her. … Beautiful.’
– Ian Wedde, Cultural Studies Review
‘A Country in Mind defies the conservative view, the taxonomical thundering, and all other attempts at generic border protection. … Saskia Beudel is concerned with the gaining of knowledge of an unknown place ... and the various effects, over time, of bodies in a landscape: the effects of walking through it, caring for it, exploiting it, changing it, farming in it, living and dying in it. … Beudel’s interdisciplinary approach is crucial to the arguments she makes, which are essentially about interconnectedness: of public with private history, of place with memory … and of the region’s history, geography, geology, zoology, botany and ecology – all of them are interrelated forms of knowledge …’
– Kerryn Goldsworthy, Sydney Review of Books
‘This is a magical book, beautifully written, and with a clear eye for detail. The narrative voice is irresistible.’
– Elisabeth Hanscombe, Life Writing
‘[Beudel] brings together a vast range of research and scholarship with her personal experience of the desert, its peoples and their stories – narrative structures patterned by country rather than plot or character – in a fascinating, thought-provoking, highly resonant amalgam.’
– Katharine England, Adelaide Advertiser
‘Saskia Beudel is an author with a deep, strong connection to the land and its history, finding meaning in landscape that stimulates thought, memories and the need to understand.’
– Elaine Fry, The West Australian
‘Beudel intertwines genres of memoir, travel literature, historical and ecological writing in order to reveal the complex interplay between history, memory and landscapes.’
‘The Australian Outback is depicted with such gorgeous language in Beudel’s book that it almost feels as though you’re seeing it with your own eyes. There is, however, more to this book than just description. The history and spirituality of the region is the glue that binds this alluring memoir together and turns it into a journey through Australia unlike any other.’
– World Literature Today