Randolph Stow Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Julian Randolph Stow was born in Western Australia, where his father was a lawyer. The largely autobiographical novel The Merry-Go-Round in the Sea gives an account of his childhood experiences there. His first novel, A Haunted Land, and most of the poems in Act One were written while he was an undergraduate at the University of Western Australia. He spent his years there studying English and French literature and avidly reading in other European literatures. The reading of these years shows in a number of his novels, but especially in the rich allusiveness of To the Islands. The Bystander, Stow’s second novel, was written after he graduated. In 1957 Stow worked for some months on an Aboriginal mission in the northwestern corner of Australia, and from his experiences there was born what most critics consider to be his masterpiece and one of the best Australian novels of the twentieth century, To the Islands. Tourmaline, too, in the geographical isolation of its setting, reflects his sense at the mission of being at the world’s end, as if he were at a remote settlement within the remote settlement of Western Australia.

After studying anthropology at the University of Sydney, Stow worked as an assistant anthropologist in the Trobriand Islands off northeastern New Guinea until he suffered a physical and emotional collapse there. Visitants, which he wrote twenty years later, is based upon these experiences. In 1960 Stow moved to England. Soon after first arriving in England he was awarded a Harkness Fellowship in the United States,...

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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Hassall, Anthony J. “Randolph Stow.” In Australian Writers, 1915-1950, edited by Selina Samuels. Vol. 260 in Dictionary of Literary Biography. Detroit: Gale Group, 2002. A solid overview of Stow’s career.

Hassall, Anthony J. Strange Country: A Study of Randolph Stow. Rev. ed. St. Lucia, Queensland, Australia: University of Queensland Press, 1990. An academic study that covers Stow’s later work.

Lear, Martin. “Mal du Pays: Symbolic Geography in the Work of Randolph Stow.” Australian Literary Studies 15, no. 1 (May, 1991): 3-26. Examines geography in Stow’s works, addressing it as both literal place and symbolic of feelings.

“Stow, Randolph.” In The Oxford Companion to Australian Literature, edited by William H. Wilde, Joy Hooton, and Barry Andrews. New York: Oxford University Press, 1985. A brief but helpful essay.

Stow, Randolph. Randolph Stow: “Visitants,” Episodes from Other Novels, Poems, Stories, Interviews, and Essays. Edited by Anthony J. Hassall. St. Lucia, Queensland, Australia: University of Queensland Press, 1990. Includes insightful and enlightening interviews with the author.

Willbanks, Ray. Randolph Stow. Boston: Twayne, 1978. A good introduction to Stow’s career and major work.