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y separately published work icon Tourmaline single work   novel  
Issue Details: First known date: 1963... 1963 Tourmaline
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AbstractHistoryArchive Description

'Once prosperous, the town of Tourmaline in outback Western Australia is dying. The mines are drying up and the land is riddled by drought. Those townspeople left have little to do but wile away the hours with drink.

'Salvation of sorts arrives in the form of Michael Random, a mysterious water diviner who emerges from the desert. As the town's reluctant messiah Random begins to spread the word of Christ. Desperate for a reprieve, many of the locals are drawn to his teachings, but a stubborn few remain sceptical of their new leader.

'A post-apocalyptic parable, Tourmaline is Randolph Stow's most allusive and controversial novel. It remains a landmark in Australian literature more than half a century after its first publication.'

Source: Publisher's blurb (Text Classics).


  • Epigraph: O gens de peu de poids dans la memoire de ces lieux ... St.- John Perse: ANABASE
  • Dedication: For M.C.S.
  • Author's note: The action of this novel is to be imagined as taking place in the future. A first draft of Chapter 1 was published in Meanjin, No. 85 (1961).

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

    • London,
      United Kingdom (UK),
      Western Europe, Europe,
      MacDonald ,
      1963 .
      image of person or book cover 6204212344577895856.jpg
      This image has been sourced from online.
      Extent: 224p.
    • Harmondsworth, Middlesex,
      United Kingdom (UK),
      Western Europe, Europe,
      Ringwood, Ringwood - Croydon - Kilsyth area, Melbourne - East, Melbourne, Victoria,: Penguin ,
      1965 .
      Extent: 174p.
      • 'An Australian Penguin Book'
      • Printed in Australia
      Series: Australian Penguin Books Penguin (publisher), series - publisher Number in series: AU15
    • New York (City), New York (State),
      United States of America (USA),
      Taplinger Publishing ,
      1983 .
      Alternative title: Tourmaline : A Novel
      Extent: 221p.
      ISBN: 9780800877972, 0800877977
    • Port Melbourne, South Melbourne - Port Melbourne area, Melbourne - Inner South, Melbourne, Victoria,: London,
      United Kingdom (UK),
      Western Europe, Europe,
      Minerva ,
      1991 .
      Extent: 221p.
      ISBN: 074939188X (pbk)
    • Melbourne, Victoria,: Text Publishing , 2015 .
      image of person or book cover 3145278875584177096.jpeg
      Image courtesy of publisher's website.
      • Introduction by Gabrielle Carey.
      ISBN: 9781925240306
      Series: y separately published work icon Text Classics Text Publishing (publisher), Melbourne : Text Publishing , 2012- Z1851461 2012 series - publisher novel 'Great books by great Australian storytellers.' (Text website.)

Other Formats

  • Also sound recording.

Works about this Work

Groundwater as Hyperobject Deborah Wardle , 2019 single work criticism
— Appears in: Mosaic , June vol. 52 no. 2 2019; (p. 1-16)

'The essay explores ideas about groundwater in terms of its characteristics as a hyperobject. Key hydrogeology concepts and the conflicts and dilemmas in uses and abuses of groundwater in Australia underpin a search for the metaphorical potency of groundwater. Literature uncovers how allegorical tones of groundwater may be expressed.' (Publication abstract)

The Randolph Stow Memorial Lecture Andrew Lynch , 2019 single work criticism
— Appears in: Westerly , vol. 64 no. 1 2019; (p. 142-150)
'It’s a great honour for me to be asked to give this memorial lecture for Randolph Stow. Thanks to the Westerly Centre and the Festival for inviting me. Stow’s writing has been a part of my life since my early twenties, when I was given the Penguin To the Islands (1962) as a birthday present. I didn’t know then that when Stow wrote it he was the same age as me reading it, or that it was his third published novel. After that, I read The Merry-go-Round in the Sea (1965) and Tourmaline (1963). Then in my early years here at the University of Western Australia (UWA) I first read two more: Visitants (1979) and The Girl Green as Elderflower (1980). Quite a few years later, after many re-readings, I think of Stow as a great artist, a poet amongst the English-language novelists of his time.' (Introduction)
Lost and Found in Translation : Who Can Talk to Country? Kim Mahood , 2019 single work essay
— Appears in: Griffith Review , January no. 63 2019; (p. 29-46)

'Unlike many city-dwelling Australians, the desert holds no terrors for me. Instead, like DH Lawrence, I find the cathedral forests of the coastal regions oppressive and disquieting. Lawrence brought to his descriptions of the Australian bush the same overwrought sensitivity that created the claustrophobic emotional landscape of 'Sons and Lovers', and the appalling, majestic insularity of the Italian mountain village in 'The Lost Girl'. He was the writer who made explicit the sense of some non-human presence in the Antipodean landscape, and while I have a different interpretation of the 'speechless, aimless solitariness' he attributes to the country, his instincts were good.'  (Publication abstract)


Fraught with Danger and Promise : Re-Introducing Randolph Stow's Tourmaline (1963) Gabrielle Carey , 2015 single work review
— Appears in: Island , no. 142 2015; (p. 57-59)
In Conscious Exile Geordie Williamson , 2015 single work criticism
— Appears in: The Monthly , November no. 117 2015; (p. 58-59)
'The Text Classics series has had some coups since its inauguration in 2012 - re-publication of works by David Ireland and Elizabeth Harrower spring to mind - but nothing on this scale. In August, Text reissued five novels by Randolph Stow, with accompanying essays by significant Australian writers and critics.' (Author's introduction)
Remembering Stow Thomas Shapcott , 2002-2003 single work review
— Appears in: Australian Book Review , December-January no. 247 2002-2003; (p. 64)

— Review of To the Islands Randolph Stow , 1958 single work novel ; Tourmaline Randolph Stow , 1963 single work novel
[Review] Tourmaline James Wells-Green , 2003 single work review
— Appears in: JAS Review of Books , March no. 13 2003;

— Review of Tourmaline Randolph Stow , 1963 single work novel
Allusive but Timely Elizabeth Perkins , 2002 single work review
— Appears in: Social Alternatives , Spring vol. 21 no. 4 2002; (p. 57-58)

— Review of Tourmaline Randolph Stow , 1963 single work novel ; To the Islands Randolph Stow , 1958 single work novel
Special Notices Barry Pree , 1963 single work review
— Appears in: The London Magazine , June vol. 3 no. 3 1963; (p. 87-88)

— Review of Tourmaline Randolph Stow , 1963 single work novel
A Novel Chronicle D. R. Burns , 1964 single work review
— Appears in: Prospect , vol. 7 no. 1 1964; (p. 27-29)

— Review of The Tilted Cross Hal Porter , 1961 single work novel ; The Well Dressed Explorer Thea Astley , 1962 single work novel ; The Cupboard Under the Stairs George Turner , 1962 single work novel ; Tourmaline Randolph Stow , 1963 single work novel ; The Hollow Woodheap David Forrest , 1962 single work novel
Paradoxes of Non- Existence : Questions of Time, Metaphor and the Materialities of Cultural Traditions in Wilson Harris's Discussions of Australian Literary Texts Brigitta Olubas , 2002 single work criticism
— Appears in: Australian Cultural History , no. 21 2002; (p. 81-88, notes 122)
Olubas examines the way in which Caribbean writer Wilson Harris's 'account of national traditions and of the national and cultural provenances and imaginitive inheritances of particular writers directs attention ... toward broader, unexpected imaginitive, aesthetic and representational traditions, explicitly colonial, often violent, which yet enhance our readings of the complex high points of national literary traditions and figures ... [and] presents us with other ways to take up the relations between texts, within as well as across (national) cultural traditions' (p. 88).
Messiahs and Millennia in Randolph Stow's Novels Robyn Wallace , 1981 single work criticism
— Appears in: Kunapipi , vol. 3 no. 2 1981; (p. 56-72)

'The novels I shall concentrate on in discussing messiahs and millennia in Stow's work are To the Islands, Tourmaline, Visitants, and The Girl Green as Elderflower. Tourmaline and Visitants are the two which most clearly relate to millenarian themes. Tourmaline records the growth, and collapse, of a millenarian cult centred on the messianic or would-be messianic figure of the diviner Michael Random. Visitants is a structurally more complex exploration of three millenarian visions and their communal and personal repercussions, although the connotations of the title are not restricted to cargo or flying saucer cults.' (Publication abstract)

'Just Enough Religion to Make Us Hate': The Case of Tourmaline and Oyster Richard Scott Carr , 2004 single work criticism
— Appears in: Antipodes , June vol. 18 no. 1 2004; (p. 9-15)
Carr asserts that 'Stow and Hospital use fiction to explore the devestation wrought on a community whose long-suppressed spiritual desires find their outlet in the perverse and destructive.' He contends that 'the residents of Tourmaline and Outer Maroo, in refusing to address their alienation from their environment and themselves, ensure the disaster that closes both novels.'
Words of Water : Reading Otherness in Tourmaline and Oyster Bernadette Brennan , 2004 single work criticism
— Appears in: JASAL , vol. 3 no. 2004; (p. 143-157)
Literature in the Arid Zone Tom Lynch , 2007 single work criticism
— Appears in: The Littoral Zone : Australian Contexts and Their Writers 2007; (p. 70-92)
This chapter surveys and assesses from an ecocentric perspective some representative literary portrayals of the Australian deserts. Generally, it contrasts works that portray the desert as an alien, hostile, and undifferentiated void with works that recognise and value the biological particularities of specific desert places. It explores the literature of three dominant cultural orientations to the deserts: pastoralism, mining, and traversal. It concludes with a consideration of several multi-voiced and/or multi-genred bioregionally informed works that suggests fruitful directions for more ecocentric literary approaches. (abstract taken from The Littoral Zone)
Last amended 3 Jul 2015 13:30:19
  • Western Australia,
  • Bush,
  • Australian Outback, Central Australia,
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