David Malouf 1934–
Australian novelist, poet, and short story writer.
Malouf first gained attention for his poetry but has since developed a reputation as a novelist of considerable talent. His work, much of which is set in Australia, is often concerned with the relation of the past to the present and with the human desire to live in harmony with nature. Malouf's fiction and poetry are often marked by memories of childhood and are full of concrete, vivid descriptions of the natural world. Malouf is also intensely interested in the subject of individuals in search of their "hidden," or true, selves. His first novel, Johnno (1977), portrays the spiritual growth and coming of age of two young men who have been friends since childhood. In the novel An Imaginary Life (1978), which has been described as a long prose poem, Malouf speculates on how the Roman poet Ovid might have come to terms with himself and nature during his exile to a village on the Black Sea.
Malouf's poetry, which has not received the critical interest accorded his prose, reflects his belief that "poems are acts of reconciliation." In his verse, Malouf seeks to join the past and the present, the real and the imagined, and the individual with others and with life itself. In spite of mixed opinions as to how well Malouf succeeds, critics admire his ability to capture the beauty and mystique of nature and are pleased by his wit. First Things Last (1981), Malouf's recent collection of poetry, has received a generally favorable critical response. This volume shares with Malouf's other collections and novels an attentiveness to detail and finely drawn, elaborate backgrounds.