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y separately published work icon Plains of Promise single work   novel  
Issue Details: First known date: 1997... 1997 Plains of Promise
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'In this brilliant debut novel, Alexis Wright evokes city and outback, deepening our understanding of human ambition and failure, and making the timeless heart and soul of this country pulsate on the page. Black and white cultures collide in a thousand ways as Aboriginal spirituality clashes with the complex brutality of colonisation at St Dominic's mission. With her political awareness raised by work with the city-based Aboriginal Coalition, Mary visits the old mission in the northern Gulf country, place of her mother's and grandmother's suffering. Mary's return reignites community anxieties, and the Council of Elders again turn to their spirit world.' (From the publisher's website.)



Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

Alternative title: Les Plaines de l'Espoir
Language: French
    • Arles,
      Western Europe, Europe,
      Actes Sud ,
      1999 .
      image of person or book cover 5988299435229240183.jpg
      This image has been sourced from online.
      Extent: 335p.
      • Babel series, 544.
      • Traduction de: Plains of promise.
      ISBN: 2742738509, 9782742738502, 276092274X, 9782760922747
    • Arles,
      Western Europe, Europe,
      Actes Sud ,
      2002 .
      image of person or book cover 2307336186010162024.jpg
      This image has been sourced from online.
      Extent: 335p.
      ISBN: 2742724893, 9782742724895

Other Formats

  • Also sound recording.

Works about this Work

Contested Land : Country and Terra Nullius in Plains of Promise and Benang : From the Heart Jane Gleeson-White , 2018 single work criticism
— Appears in: JASAL , vol. 3 no. 18 2018;

'The Mabo decision of 1992 made questions about the definition of land in Australia and its relation to humans newly significant by overturning the British legal fiction of this continent as ‘terra nullius’ (empty land) and acknowledged for the first time in Anglo-Australian law the validity of Aboriginal land claims. Alexis Wright’s Plains of Promise (1997) and Kim Scott’s Benang (1999) were written in the wake of this landmark decision. Both tell stories of children of the Stolen Generations and their ancient ties to their ancestral land, despite their severance from it. Critical scholarship on these novels has focused primarily on their human stories and been conducted in terms of postcolonial theory and discussions of magic realism. In this article I seek to complicate and expand these predominantly anthropocentric readings by drawing on ecocriticism to explore the central role of the non-human world in these novels. I argue they privilege an Indigenous understanding of two regions of the Australian continent as ‘country’ over their conception as terra nullius, a blank canvass available for colonisation and inscription by British property law and Christianity. The novels contest this concept of terra nullius by manifesting ‘country’: a vibrant, active land inextricably bound to its Indigenous people by ancient, enduring laws. They rewrite the continent as black land and suggest their protagonists’ inextricable, enduring ties to it.'  (Publication abstract)

Magical Realism and the Transcultural Politics of Irony : Alexis Wright’s Plains of Promise Maria Takolander , 2018 single work criticism
— Appears in: JASAL , vol. 3 no. 18 2018;

'Magical realist fiction has been repeatedly explained in terms of territorialised projects of cultural renewal and in ways that rhetorically exceed its status as literature. Such readings, however, have overlooked the transcultural nature of the literary form and the ways in which it is always radicalised by the dialogical play of irony. The neglect of irony can be understood in relation to a traditional suspicion of the aesthetic within postcolonial discourse, according to which the aesthetic is conceptualised as inimical to the political concerns of postcolonial texts. However, following Bill Ashcroft’s reassessment of the aesthetic in postcolonial contexts, and engaging Gerald Vizenor’s theorisation of irony’s valence in postcolonial magical realist fiction, this paper reconfigures the hermeneutic tradition associated with magical realism in order to redeem its aesthetic and political vitality. Focusing on the magical realist novel Plains of Promise (1997) by the Australian Aboriginal (Waanyi) writer Alexis Wright, this paper reveals the aesthetic strategy of irony as central to the magical realist text’s subversion of colonial discourse and its dynamic vision of Aboriginal sovereignty.'  (Publication abstract)

Strange Weather : Indigenous Materialisms, New Materialism, and Colonialism Alison Ravenscroft , 2018 single work criticism
— Appears in: Cambridge Journal of Postcolonial Literary Inquiry , September vol. 5 no. 3 2018; (p. 353-370)

'The essay looks at the challenges Australian Indigenous materialisms make to the Western concept of human and its relation to the inhuman, and it does this through reading the novels of Waanyi writer, critic, and activist Alexis Wright. In the Australian context, a highly productive knot is being tied between post-humanism and postcolonialism, such that the binary of “culture” and “nature” is understood in relation to another binary couple that sits snugly within “culture” and “nature,” and that is “colonizer” and “native.” The place of Indigenous-signed literary texts in critiques of Western materialisms cannot be underestimated. It is through the arts that most encounters between Indigenous and settler Australians take place. How non-Indigenous readers might approach these literary texts is a key ethical question with implications for new materialist and post-humanist projects.'  (Publication abstract)

Richard Flanagan's and Alexis Wright's Magic Nihilism Jamie Derkenne , 2017 single work criticism
— Appears in: Antipodes , December vol. 31 no. 2 2017; (p. 276-290, 458)

'Whether it be Sir John Franklin confronting a "sense of his own horror" while hallucinating and dying in Flanagan's Wanting (177), Oblivia, mute and with no agency, possessed only of memories that Bella Donna "has chosen to tell her" in Wright's Swan Book (89) and ending her days in a ghost swamp (334), or Aljaz Cosini finding himself in a "gorge of death" because he has ignored the "language" of the landscape in Flanagan's Death of a River Guide (296-97), both authors write of an erosion of being and purpose, often using landscape and the history inscribed on that landscape to describe existential crisis. Magic realism, even its constituent words, has little relation with what Franz Roh proposed in his seminal 1925 essay on a new form of painting: the term has not only shifted its main focus from one artistic endeavor to another but has often features of surrealism or what Roh (dismissively) called "Expressionism," a term he used to explicitly label Marc Chagall's modernist work, characterized as including animals walking in the sky, heads "popped like corks," "chromatic storms," and distortions of perspective (Faris 17). Wright's dream of a common spirituality of reconciliation, also expressed in interview, also has resonances with Fuentes's belief (33) that all Mexicans need to recognize that Indians are intrinsically part of their culture, their identity and heritage, and must therefore work to ensure justice for that population. [...]the invading colonial culture was initially penal, brutalizing, and authoritative and indeed sought to make the entire landscape an unescapable and perfect prison.' (Publication abstract)

Australian Indigenous Art and Literature Sally Butler , 2017 single work criticism
— Appears in: Worldmaking : Literature, Language, Culture 2017; (p. 107-116)
The Pointed Review Larissa Behrendt , 2007 single work review
— Appears in: National Indigenous Times , 29 November vol. 6 no. 143 2007; (p. 30)

— Review of Carpentaria Alexis Wright , 2006 single work novel ; Plains of Promise Alexis Wright , 1997 single work novel
Problems with Victim Support Rosemary Sorensen , 1997 single work review
— Appears in: The Sunday Age , 4 May 1997; (p. 8)

— Review of Plains of Promise Alexis Wright , 1997 single work novel
Abused and Beaten Tegan Bennett Daylight , 1997 single work review
— Appears in: The Weekend Australian , 10-11 May 1997; (p. rev 9)

— Review of Plains of Promise Alexis Wright , 1997 single work novel ; The Ballad of Siddy Church Lin Van Hek , 1997 single work novel
Generations Suffer the Agony and the Exodus Nicholas Jose , 1997 single work review
— Appears in: The Sydney Morning Herald , 17 May 1997; (p. 9s)

— Review of Plains of Promise Alexis Wright , 1997 single work novel
Books in Brief Jim Buckell , 1997 single work review
— Appears in: The Australian's Review of Books , May vol. 2 no. 4 1997; (p. 28)

— Review of Plains of Promise Alexis Wright , 1997 single work novel
Re-Surfacing through Palimpsests : A (False) Quest for Reposession in the Works of Mudrooroo and Alexis Wright Francoise Kral , 2002 single work criticism
— Appears in: Commonwealth , vol. 25 no. 1 2002; (p. 7-14)
Author's abstract: Mudrooroo and Alexis Wright seem to have little in common. Mudrooroo belongs to the first generation of Australian Aboriginal writers and wrote many novels and critical studies as well as poetry. As for Alexis Wright, she wrote her first novel in 1997. Yet the landscapes they describe are charaterized by the same tension between a homogeneous surface and sub-layers that criss-cross, overlap and surface, thus posing a threat to the apparent unity of colonial space. This essay addresses the issue of palimpsestic landscapes and characters as clues to pinpoint the specificities of Aboriginal aesthetics. It also focuses on the use of intertextual references as a means to subvert colonial discourse.
Homelands vs 'The Tropics' : Crossing the Line Lyn Jacobs , 2003 single work criticism
— Appears in: JASAL , vol. 2 no. 2003; (p. 167-178)
'In Australian fictions, "the tropics" feature as paradisiacal retreats, mosquito-infested war zones, touristic destinations or sites-of-last-resort on terminal pathways north. But they are also homelands and cross-cultural spaces where the nexus between Indigenous and non-indigenous people, as well as the environment, climate and geography, is distinctive ... This paper considers "the tropics" as contested sites in Australia and New Guinea, and indicates tensions between writing about or from within homelands' (p.167).
An Interview with Alexis Wright Jean-François Vernay (interviewer), 2004 single work interview
— Appears in: Antipodes , December vol. 18 no. 2 2004; (p. 119-122)
Discomforting Readings : Uncanny Perceptions of Self in Alexis Wright's 'Plains of Promise' and David Malouf's 'Remembering Babylon' Cornelis Martin Renes , 2003 single work criticism
— Appears in: Eucalypt , February no. 2 2003;
Cross-Cultural Alliances : Exploring Aboriginal Asian Literary and Cultural Production Peta Stephenson , 2003 single work criticism
— Appears in: Lost in the Whitewash : Aboriginal-Asian Encounters in Australia, 1901-2001 2003; (p. 143-162)
Peta Stephenson surveys Aboriginal-Asian cross-cultural production, considering representations of Aboriginal-Asian relations, influences on the construction of contemporary Aboriginality, and Aboriginal perceptions of Asian identity.


1998 shortlisted International Awards Commonwealth Writers Prize Best First Book Award South-East Asia and Pacific Region
shortlisted New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards
shortlisted The Age Book of the Year Award
Last amended 20 Nov 2017 11:33:30