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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