In Remembering Babylon David Malouf gives us a rich and compelling novel, in language of astonishing poise and resonance, about the settling of the continent down under, Australia, and the vicissitudes of first contact with the unknown. In the mid-1840s a thirteen-year-old cabin boy, Gemmy Fairley, is cast ashore from a British shipwreck onto the Queensland coast, and is taken in by aborigines. Sixteen years later, three children from a white settlement come upon this apparition: “The stick-like legs, all knobbed at the joints, suggested a wounded waterbird, a brolga, or a human that in the manner of the tales they told one another, all spells and curses, had been changed into a bird, but only halfway, and now, neither one thing nor the other, was hopping and flapping towards them out of a world over there, beyond the no-mans-land of the swamps…of nightmare rumours, superstitions and all that belonged to Absolute Dark.” Possessed of lyrical intensity and always respectful of human complexity, Remembering Babylon tells the story of Gemmy, and of his relation to the whites. Given shelter by the McIvors, the family of the three children, he seems at first to have a secure role in the settlement, but currents of fear and distrust intensify. At once white and black, a man with a voice but unable to speak the language, he confounds all categories that might explain him. To everyone he meets – from George Abbot, the romantically aspiring young teacher; to Janet McIvor, on the verge of adulthood; to the eccentric governor of Queensland himself – Gemmy is a force of nature that both fascinates and repels. He finds his own whiteness as unsettling in his new world as the knowledge he brings withhim of the savage, the aboriginal. In his most accomplished novel to date, David Malouf has written a powerful fiction, informed by a vision of eternal human differences. Remembering Babylon is a brilliant mythopoeia of our unending encounter with the Other.