The Fiction of Tim Winton: Relational Ecology in an Unsettled Land

by Lyn McCredden

Complicating the processes of belonging in place, for non-Indigenous Australians, is the growing realization that they live in a huge, diverse land, a place in which they are not native. The fiction of popular Anglo-Saxon Australian novelist Tim Winton echoes the understanding of poet Judith Wright, for whom “two strands – the love of the land we have invaded and the guilt of the invasion – have become part of me. It is a haunted country” (Wright 1991: 30). This essay will explore Winton’s novels in which there is a pervasive sense of unease and loss experienced by the central characters, in relation to place and land.
Winton’s characters – Queenie Cookson and her traumatic witnessing of the barbaric capture and flaying of whales; Fish Lamb’s near-drowning in the sea, and Lu Fox’s quest for refuge in the wilderness, prophet-like, after the tragedy of his family’s death – are all written with a haunting sense of white unsettlement and displacement, where such natural forces – the sea and its creatures, the land’s distances and risks – confront and re-form the would-be dominators.