The Land I Came Through Last

Robert Gray

The Land I Came Through Last
Giramondo Publishing Co
22 August 2008

The Land I Came Through Last

Robert Gray

The title of Robert Gray’s autobiography is drawn from a poem by the famous Australian poet Christopher Brennan, ‘The land I came thro’ last was dumb with night / a limbo of defeated glory, a ghost’. There is more glory than defeat in this work, though, the memoir of a writer who is, in turn, one of Australia’s best-known living poets. Although Gray is necessarily present throughout, the personal element is subdued - it is on others that the focus always falls, and on his parents most of all. Their struggle with defeated expectation and finally with old age closes the book. The Land I Came Through Last is ultimately a tribute to their strengths and weaknesses, and their very different personalities.


Though one of Australia’s most awarded poets, Robert Gray remains relatively unknown outside the local literary community. Undeservedly so – his poetry superbly captures the spiritual bond between Australia’s landscape and its inhabitants, much like the more prominent Les Murray.

Gray’s first venture into prose is his aptly titled memoir, The Land I Came Through Last. From his childhood marred by his father’s alcoholism, to his later life spent unsuccessfully trying to win the approval of his parents, through his professional success, Gray provides an insight into his personal life with the honesty you’d expect from a writer with a finely-tuned understanding of human behaviour and knack for beautifully distilling life’s nuances. Gray also charts the development of his creative side: his extensive knowledge of art and philosophy, his influential relationships, most notably with the reclusive Patrick White.

Overall, Grey excels in presenting a balanced account of his family, who he neither vindicates nor vilifies. His meditations on life and death are amplified by his lyrical writing style, making his memoir a cathartic experience for both the reader and (I presume) the writer.

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