Gould's Book of Fish
"Once upon a time that was called 1828, before all the fishes in the sea and all living things on the land were destroyed, there was a man named William Buelow Gould, a white convict who fell in love with a block woman and discovered too late that to love is not safe. Silly Billy Gould, invader of Australia, liar, murderer & forger, condemned to the most feared penal colony in the British Empire and there ordered to paint a book of fish.
"One upon a time there were miracles..."
My wonder upon discovering the Book of Fish remains with me yet, luminous as the phosphorescent marbling that seized my eyes that strange morning; glittering as those eerie swirls that coloured my mind and enchanted my soul - which there and then began the process of unravelling my heart and, worse still, my life into the poor, scarggy skein that is this story you are about to read.
What was it about that gentle radiance that would come to make me think I had lived the same life over and over, like some Hindu mystic forever trapped in the Great Wheel? that was to become my fate? that stole my charcater? that rendered my past and my future one and indivisible?
Was it that mesmeric shimmer spiralling from the unruly manuscript out of whic seahorses and seadragons and stargazers were already swimming, bringing dazzling light to a dreary day not long born? Was it that sorry vanity of thought which made me think contaned within me was all men and all fish and all things? Or was it something more prosaic - bad company and worse drink - which has led to the monstrous pass in which I now find myself?
From the Picador hardback edition, 2001.
Gould's Book of Fish was shortlisted for the 2001 Miles Franklin Award. It won the 2002 Commonwealth Writers' Award.
This page and its contents are copyright © 2003-04 by Perry Middlemiss, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.Return to Richard Flanagan Page.
Last modified: December 20, 2004.