Born in 1938 in New South Wales, Australia, Les Murray has become one of the leading poets writing in the English language. The winner of numerous awards, he has published such noteworthy poetry collections as THE VERNACULAR REPUBLIC (1976, 1982, 1988), TRANSLATIONS FROM THE NATURAL WORLD (1994), and SUBHUMAN REDNECK POEMS (1997). For FREDY NEPTUNE, Murray has chosen to write in the little used form of the verse novel. Never one to shy away from poetic challenges, Murray has taken on the daunting task of constructing a verse novel and come up with a bold and unique creation. Written in eight-line free verse stanzas, FREDY NEPTUNE consists of five books, including “The Middle Sea,” “Barking at the Thunder,” “Prop Sabres,” “The Police Revolution,” and “Lazarus Unstruck.”
The main character, Friedrich Boettcher, is an Australian sailor of German descent. Known as “Fredy,” he is forced to serve aboard a German battleship at the start of World War I. Exposed to the horrors of Armenian women being burned to death in Turkey, he is so emotionally and psychologically torn apart by this that he loses his sense of touch. While treated for leprosy, Fredy builds up his physical strength, but his sense of touch does not return. For the next three decades, he bounces around from one location to another. Fredy travels to such places as Egypt, Hollywood, Kentucky, Paris, and New Guinea. Told in the first person, Murray delivers emotional impact through colloquial speech. At one point in time, Fredy works as “Fredy Neptune” in a circus. Like a mythical “Everyman,” Fredy grapples with the world and its failings. By the end of FREDY NEPTUNE, he is able to find comfort living with his wife and their children.
Murray has written a harrowing saga that will stay with the reader long after he or she has put it down.
Sources for Further Study
Library Journal 124 (February 15, 1999): 156.
Publishers Weekly 246 (January 11, 1999): 55.
New Statesman 127 (July 31, 1998): 46
The New York Times Book Review 104 (May 16, 1999): 15.
The Times Literary Supplement, October 2, 1998, p. 28.