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Randolph Stow Biography

(1935– ), Act One, Outrider: Poems 1956–1962, A Counterfeit Silence, A Haunted Land, The Bystander

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: St Juliot Cornwall to Rabindranath Tagore Biography

Australian poet and novelist, born in Geraldton, Western Australia, educated at the University of Western Australia. In 1966 he settled in England. Stow's early poetry, Act One (1957), Outrider: Poems 1956–1962 (1962), illustrated by Sydney Nolan, and A Counterfeit Silence (1969), mainly private letters, received wide acclaim as did his spiritually challenging and strongly atmospheric novels A Haunted Land (1956), The Bystander (1957), and To The Islands (1958, revised with an important Preface in 1982). His writing, both prose and poetry, demonstrates formidable technical virtuosity combined with great diversity of influence and reference, such as Tourmaline (1963), which draws on Chinese Taoism. The autobiographical novel The Merry-Go-Round by the Sea (1965) is a sensitive exploration of the development of a young boy from childhood in Western Australia to adolescence. In his best-selling book for children, Midnite (1967), Stow combines adventure and scholarship with literary satire and infectious good humour. Visitants (1979), set in Papua New Guinea, spanned anthropology, science fiction, and the thriller in drawing on Stow's own time in the Trobriand Islands. The Girl Green as Elderflower (1980) fused his sure knowledge of Suffolk with medieval myth, while The Suburbs of Hell (1984) recreated the atmosphere of John Webster in contemporary Old Harwich, where Stow lived, to produce a taut and disturbing book. Stow's is a distinguished and individual voice, his concerns the unchanging ones of life (and death) through different ages and cultures, but the forms and conventions are assuredly his own. Strange Country: A Study of Randolph Stow (1986) is by Anthony J. Hassal.

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