Praiseworthy (Paperback)

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An astonishing and monumental masterpiece from the towering Australian writer Alexis Wright whose “words explode from the page” (The Monthly)

In a small town in the north of Australia, a mysterious cloud heralds both an ecological catastrophe and a gathering of the ancestors. A crazed visionary looks to donkeys to solve the global climate crisis and the economic dependency of the Aboriginal people. His wife, seeking solace from his madness, follows the dance of butterflies and scours the internet to find out how her Aboriginal/Chinese family could be repatriated to China. One of their sons, named Aboriginal Sovereignty, is determined to commit suicide. The other, Tommyhawk, wishes his brother dead so that he can pursue his dream of becoming white and powerful. Praiseworthy is an epic which pushes allegory and language to its limit; a unique masterpiece that bends time and reality, opening new literary vistas; a cry of outrage against oppression and disadvantage; and a fable for the end of days.

About the Author

Alexis Wright is a member of the Waanyi nation of the southern highlands of the Gulf of Carpentaria. The author of the prize-winning novels Carpentaria and The Swan Book, Wright has published three works of non-fiction: Take Power, an oral history of the Central Land Council; Grog War, a study of alcohol abuse in the Northern Territory; and Tracker, an award-winning collective memoir of Aboriginal leader Tracker Tilmouth. Her work has been translated into Chinese, Polish, French, and Italian. She held the position of Boisbouvier Chair in Australian Literature at the University of Melbourne between 2017–2022. Wright is the only author to win both the Miles Franklin Award (in 2007 for Carpentaria) and the Stella Prize (in 2018 for Tracker).

Praise For…

Praiseworthy blew me away…If you think you know what assimilation is, you should read Praiseworthy and think again.

— Australian Book Review

An abundant odyssey that contains a formidable vision of Australia’s future. This is a long journey through the imagination, a novel both urgent and deeply contemplated…The rich interrelations of ancestral spirits, larger-than-life characters, and Country all derive from the Aboriginal traditions of storytelling. But there are also signs of literary influence from every compass point on the map, including, most notably, the surrealism and magic realism of writers such as Jorge Luis Borges and Gabriel García Márquez.
— The Age

A trippy, mind-blowing, allegorical, and powerfully political book, Praiseworthy takes you to another world (the small titular town of Praiseworthy, suffering under a haze cloud and under racism), and makes that world real and makes you care deeply. 


I’m awed by the range, experiment and political intelligence of Wright’s work: she is vital on the subject of land and people.
— Robert Macfarlane - The New York Times Book Review

Praiseworthy is Alexis Wright’s most formidable act of imaginative synthesis yet. A hero’s journey for an age of global warming, a devastating story of young love caught between two laws, and an extended elegy and ode to Aboriginal law and sovereignty. . . Wright has surpassed herself—Praiseworthy is the thing itself.

— Jane Gleeson-White - The Conversation

There are few books in Australian literature more epic than Praiseworthy and few books as dense with poetry.

— Claire G. Coleman - The Saturday Paper

Wright has already proved herself one of Australia’s deepest and most urgent thinkers. In her new novel Praiseworthy, she synthesises the themes and forms of her past work—including Carpentaria, The Swan Book and Tracker—and arrives at a furious and dense epic satirising white Australia’s ongoing attacks on the colonised.

— Steph Harmon - The Guardian (Australia)

Like opera, Wright’s writing operates in many modes, not just satirical, but comedic, lyrical, absurd, a lament, a screed, a manifesto, and often within paragraphs or even sentences that wind on like the lines of migrating butterflies that flit through the novel. . . It is one of the most exhilarating reading experiences I can imagine.
— James Whitmore - The Library is Open

Praiseworthy is classic Wright: a book made of beautiful, mutable and playful language. . . These seven hundred-odd pages are chock full of stunning, exhilarating sentences that lead you around by the nose, taking you to some very unexpected places. Wright stretches sentences to their limits; when you think you’re over one sentence, sick of it even, you land on the most satisfying note.

— Mykaela Saunders - Sydney Review of Books

A shimmering vision of the legacy of colonialism in Australia, and the reasons for optimism in hoping for greater justice and autonomy for its Indigenous peoples.
— Kirkus Reviews

Alexis Wright's Praiseworthy should be the last novel ever published: it's the ultimate expression of what fiction can do, a marvelous beast that gobbles and spits up all genres; whispers and screams and moans in all registers; and the vision of our world that it casts back in its distorted funhouse mirror seems more real than piddling reality itself. 

— Stephen Sparks, Point Reyes Books

This freewheeling and heartbreaking masterpiece from Aboriginal Australian author Alexis Wright brims with the magic of myth and the painful realities of present-day climate change. At once lush and relentless, Wright’s looping tale combines magical realism, absurdism, and maximalism in a rich depiction of contemporary Aboriginal life. This is unforgettable.
— Publishers Weekly (starred)

[An] extraordinary novel … which reveals an Australia where myth and reality meet.
— Chris Power - BBC Radio Four, Open Book

A book you don’t so much read but experience and inhabit ... Praiseworthy says plenty worth saying, perhaps in the only way it could be said. Praiseworthy indeed.

— Joshua Rees - Buzz Mag

Wright gives us the living and the dead, material and non-material, Country and people; all the masters dreamed of, and all they neglected to; the entire human (and non-human) comedy. The sense is of Country cheerfully accommodating everything: high and low, chaos and epiphany, farce and deep time. Long after the lesser concerns of contemporary fiction have ceased to matter, the work of Alexis Wright will remain.
— Declan Fry - The Guardian (Australia)

There are few books in Australian literature more epic than Praiseworthy and few books as dense with poetry.

— Claire G. Coleman - The Saturday Paper

A deeply contemplated novel concerned with issues of sovereignty, ongoing colonisation and climate change that is both timely and urgent. Praiseworthy is simultaneously satirical, comic, and lyrical. A work of stunning exhilarating sentences that builds to an extended elegy and ode to Aboriginal storytelling, lore, and sovereignty.

— Queensland Literary Awards, judges’ comments

An impassioned environmental Ulysses of the Northern Territory. Playful, formally innovative, multi-storied, allegorical, protean and dizzyingly exhilarating, it is long, lyrical and enraged—James Joyce crossed with Gabriel García Márquez, Jorge Luis Borges, Bruce Chatwin and Arundhati Roy.
— Ruth Padel - The Spectator

I’m immersed in the incendiary beauty of Alexis Wright’s Praiseworthy, a monumental novel that documents ecological catastrophe and Aboriginal lives in blistering prose.

— Preti Taneja - The New Statesman

Incandescent… Praiseworthy suggests what would be lost were assimilation to succeed: vital knowledge for the future of humankind gleaned from the ‘biggest library in the world – country.’ Yet its anguished elegy is offset by a confidence in survival, born of a long view of tens of thousands of years.
— Maya Jaggi - The Guardian

The layering of time and the riot of language are Wright’s great themes and raw materials, and in “Praiseworthy” — the most ambitious and accomplished Australian novel of this century — they twist and shimmer, doomed forever to their violent pas de deux.
— Samuel Rutter - The New York Times Book Review

Thoroughly original and refreshingly honest.
— Ian Gill - The Tyee
Product Details
ISBN: 9780811238014
ISBN-10: 0811238016
Publisher: New Directions
Publication Date: February 6th, 2024
Pages: 672
Language: English