Tracker by Alexis Wright
A fiercely intelligent and provocative writer, Alexis Wright is one of the most important voices in our literary landscape. Her singular books – whether a richly surreal imagining of the future (The Swan Book), or an eye-opening account of grassroots activism (Grog War) – interrogate contemporary Australian life and deepen our understanding of Aboriginal culture. Her latest book is a ‘collective memoir’ of charismatic Aboriginal leader, Leigh Bruce ‘Tracker’ Tilmouth.
Tracker looms large in the national consciousness. An Arrente man from the Alice Springs region, he was known for his activism and bold ideas, as much as for his irreverent sense of humour and lively antics. His life and work intersect with a key period in the political life of Australia. He was a member of the stolen generations, taken from his family and raised in a mission on Croker Island. Throughout his adult life, he fought, passionately and tirelessly, for Aboriginal self-determination, including in his role as director of the Central Land Council. In crafting this work, Wright has interviewed Tracker’s friends, family and colleagues, as well as the man himself, interweaving their distinct voices to create something that is intimate and expansive. The book’s unusual structure is testament to the value and role of storytelling in Aboriginal life. Wright comments: ‘this is what Aboriginal people understand, that it takes the voices of many to tell the stories of country, the story lines.’ Her books have always drawn from an oral storytelling tradition, and with Tracker she is again pushing new boundaries of the written form, creating new spaces for her community.
In this work, every person has a chance to speak and we read about the same events from multiple perspectives, always with new and surprising details. The nuanced portrait of Tracker that emerges from these collected fragments reveals the impact he made on so many lives. This is a landmark work – epic in its scope and empathy.