"Capricornia has been described as one of Australia's 'great comic novels' - although Herbert's humour is often as bitter and as harsh as the terrain about which he writes. Above all, however this is a novel of protest, and of compassion - for the Aborigines and half-bloods of Australia's 'last frontier'.
"Sprawling, explosive, thronged with characters, plots, and sub-plots, Capricornia is without doubt one of the best known and widely read Australian novels of the last fifty years. When it was first published it was acclaimed as 'a turning point', an 'outstanding work of social protest'. Its message is as penetrating today as it was in the 1930s when Herbert himself was official 'Protector of Aborigines' at Darwin."
Although that northern part of the Continent of Australia which is called Capricornia was pioneered long after the southern parts, its unofficial early history was even more bloody than that of the others. One probable reason for this is that the pioneers had already had experience of subduing Aborigines in the South and hence were impatient of wasting time with people who they knew were determined to take no immigrants. Another reason is that the Aborigines were there more numerous than in the South and more hostile because used to resisting casual invaders from the near East Indies. A third reason is that the pioneers had difficulty in establishing permanent settlements, having serveral times to abandon ground they had won with slaughter and go slaughtering again to secure more. This abandoning of ground was due not to the hostility of the natives, hostile enough though they were, but to the violence of the climate, which was not to be withstood even by men so well equipped with lethal weapons and belief in the decency of their purpose as Anglo-Saxon builders of Empire.
From the Angus & Robertson hardback edition, 1987.
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Last modified: September 25, 2001.