Les Murray

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Les Murray (2004)

Leslie Allan Murray AO (born October 17, 1938 in Nabiac , New South Wales , † April 29, 2019 in Taree , New South Wales) was an Australian poet and literary critic .

life and work

Murray went to the University of Sydney in 1957 to study modern languages. There he converted to the Catholic faith. He became a professional translator without a degree. From 1969 onwards he devoted himself entirely to literature after traveling for some time and getting his degree. For his poetry, which has been translated into ten languages, he has received several important literary awards, including a. The Petrarca Prize in 1995 , the TS Eliot Prize in 1996 and the Premio Mondello in 2004 . With his works Learning Human (2000) and Conscious & Verbal (2001) he was nominated for the international Griffin Poetry Prize in 2001 and 2002 . He was also honored in 1989 with the title of Officer of the Order of Australia for his contributions to Australian literature. Les Murray also edited Poetry Australia magazine and worked as literary editor for Quadrant magazine .

Fredy Neptune

Fredy Neptune (1999) is the second verse epic by Les Murray. The hero, Friedrich Boettcher alias Fredy Neptune, is a German sailor who is surprised by the outbreak of the First World War in Messina on a German cargo ship that is supplying SMS Goeben with coal. The Goeben escapes and puts herself in the service of the Turkish fleet. He travels with her to Turkey, where he experiences the Turkish atrocities against the Armenians and experiences the shock of his life there when he witnessed the burning of living women. Afterwards, his feelings are dulled, he has lost the ability to empathize, but with it also his pain sensation. So he can use his enormous physical strength more intensely. After the turmoil of the war that he experienced in the English army in the Middle East, he came to Australia. There he is ostracized because of his German origins and has no permanent place to live. Circumstances lead him to America, where he lives as a hobo and becomes a supporting actor in Hollywood films. He hangs out with the homeless and socializes with the social elite, is celebrated as a German hero and quickly forgotten. He also had to experience the horrors of World War II. He tries in vain to lead a simple life. Only at the end can he feel human feelings again, but he looks back on half a century of horror. The figure of Fredy combines traits from Odysseus , Superman , Frankenstein , Don Quixote and Till Eulenspiegel .


Les Murray turned against the modernism that dominated Australia. In his poetry, as Andreas Dorschel put it, the poet designed "panoramas of destruction. Les Murrays Australia is a country robbed of its secrets by tourism and business. The machine and the animal are the two poles of its landscape. Before the violence, only the word remains she names ".

German-speaking reception

Les Murray and Margitt Lehbert in the Lyrikkabinett Munich 2014

Some of Les Murray's works have also appeared as literary translations into German , for example as translations of the verse epic Fredy Neptune by Thomas Eichhorn in 2004 in Ammann Verlag and by Margitt Lehbert in their edition Rugerup as bilingual publications 2006 poems, large as photos , 2007 translations from the Nature , 2011 Bigger Lying Down , 2012 The Black Dog. A memorandum on the Depression (monolingual) and, in 2008, published by the Thomas Reche publishing house, the volume of poetry Verschollen with etchings by Susanne Theumer .

The translation of Fredy Neptune , which is peppered with allusions and Australian slang expressions, posed a great challenge for the translator, or rather: the post-poet Thomas Eichhorn. In particular, the linguistic peculiarities of the bilingual (Australian-English and German-speaking) main character into German to translate. After the publication of the bilingual annotated edition, the epic was enthusiastically welcomed as "the boldest poem of the 20th century": "With this epic, Les Murray has undoubtedly enriched world literature with a [...] Nobel Prize-worthy work" ( Jürgen Brôcan , NZZ ). The book impressed abroad, especially in German-speaking countries even more than in Australia. European critics often compared to Omeros by Derek Walcott . In Australia, Murray was accused of his ideological position: his portrayal missed the realities of the Australian working class; he cultivates anti-intellectual and anti-socialist prejudices.

Les Murray repeatedly went on long reading tours, which also took him through Germany, Austria and Switzerland. His first reading in Germany took place in 1994 in the Lyrik Kabinett in Munich. In 2004 he read at the Leipzig Book Fair , in 2007 he was at the presentation of the volume Poems, Large as Photos, together with Margitt Lehbert u. a. in Stuttgart and in 2014 he visited Vienna , Munich, Zurich , Bremen , Cologne and Berlin, among others .

In 2019 the FAZ called him "the most important Australian poet of his time". The Süddeutsche Zeitung wrote in its obituary that Murray felt connected to traditional Aboriginal song forms . His deep faith was accompanied by a skepticism towards modernity and a "constant celebration of traditional values". That could have been one reason why he did not receive a Nobel Prize even though he was one of the favorites.

Single track

  • The Ilex Tree (1965) (with Geoffrey Lehmann ) - poems
  • The Weatherboard Cathedral (1969) - poems
  • Poems Against Economics (1972)
  • Lunch and Counter Lunch (1974)
  • The Vernacular Republic Selected Poems (1976)
  • Ethnic Radio (1978) - poems
  • The Peasant Mandarin (1978) - prose
  • The Boys Who Stole the Funeral (1980) - novel
  • Equanimities (1982) - Poems
  • The Vernacular Republic: Poems 1961–1981 (1982)
  • The People's Otherworld (1983) - poems
  • Persistence in Folly (1984) - Poems
  • The Daylight Moon (1987) - poems
  • The Idyll Wheel (1989) - poems
  • Dog Fox Field (1990) - poems
  • Blocks and Tackles (1990) - Poems
  • The Rabbiter's Bounty (1991)
  • Translations from the Natural World (1992) - Poems
  • Subhuman Redneck Poems (1996)
  • A Working Forest (1997) - prose
  • Fredy Neptune (1998) - Versepos
  • Learning Human (2000) - Poems
  • Conscious & Verbal (2001) - Poems
  • Poems the Size of Photographs (2002) - poems
  • Killing the Black Dog: A Memoir of Depression 96 S. Farrar, Straus and Giroux , New York City 2011, ISBN 978-0374181062
  • New Selected Poems (2014) - Poems
  • Waiting for the Past (2015) - Poems

Published in German


Web links

Commons : Les Murray  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Australian poet Les Murray died , deutschlandfunkkultur.de, published and accessed on April 30, 2019.
  2. It's an Honor. Australian Government, accessed July 23, 2010 .
  3. Andreas Dorschel , 'Between Wine and Desert', in: Süddeutsche Zeitung No. 260 (November 11, 2005), p. 16.
  4. ^ Irmtraut Petersson: Odysseus from the Outback ': Fredy Neptune in German and Its Critical Reception. In: Australian Literary Studies, Volume 22, No. 1, 2005, pp. 1 ff.
  5. readings. Lyrik Kabinett Foundation, 1999, accessed May 24, 2014 .
  6. Reading tour and new book by Les Murray. Edition Rugerup, accessed on May 22, 2014 .
  7. ^ Frankfurter Anthologie: Les Murray: "Dichtung und Religion" , FAZ from May 3, 2019, accessed May 5, 2019
  8. see Tobias Lehmkuhl: Wortkünstler mit Schwarze Hund , in: Süddeutsche Zeitung May 3, 2019, page 14
  9. ^ NYRB online publication of the essay .