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Terra Nullius: A Journey Through No One's Land Paperback – 2 Apr 2007

4.6 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Granta Books (2 April 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1862078955
  • ISBN-13: 978-1862078956
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 21.7 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,178,773 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"...a welcome corrective to those travelogues that concentrate on
nothing but surfing and Sydney Harbour."
-- Waterstone's Books Quarterly

"The account it presents is heartbreaking and
graphic...Lindqvist's method is stylistically brilliant."
-- Scotland on Sunday

"This is an important and troubling book." -- Scotland on Sunday

"a master of worldly insight and stylistic precision... a work of
urgent necessity and a heart-warming marvel." -- Independent

"his unblinkered vision of the cruelty hidden behind the façade of
modern Australia..." -- Waterstone's Books Quarterly

About the Author

Sven Lindqvist was born in 1932 in Stockholm, where he still lives. He has traveled extensively through Asia, Africa and Latin America, and is the author of over thirty books, including 'Exterminate all the Brutes', Desert Divers, and A History of Bombing.

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

By Steven R. McEvoy TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 2 July 2009
Format: Hardcover
In the last few years Sven Lindqvist has become one of my favorite nonfiction authors. He probes some of the worst situations in human history, yet always ends up with giving us some hope for our future. In earlier books, such as Exterminate All The Brutes he chronicles the history of European genocides in Africa, and in The Skull Measurers Mistake he chronicles a history of men and women who spoke out against racism. In this volume, Terra Nullius: A Journey Through No One's Land, he chronicles the history of racism and systematic abuse against the Aboriginals from Australia, from the arrival of James Cook in 1770 to 1992 when the Mabo Decision in the Australian Supreme Court outlaws the concept of 'terra nullius'.

Like many of his earlier books it is written as part history and part journal. He chronicles events from the past, key places in this history story, and side by side with that is his journey to and fro across the Australian countryside to personally experience the places discussed in the history. He writes in a very fluid, lucid style. At times it appears to be stream of conscious writing, yet as the reader goes further and further into the book, you realize that it was nothing so random. Every history event portrayed has a specific purpose; each personal recollection brings to light either the preceding or following events; each portrait of either a victim or someone who attempted to help the victims has specific meaning and purpose to the whole.

What amazed me most about this book was that it was a story with which I was completely unfamiliar. I remember in school in the late 70's and early 80's that we often had lessons on apartheid and the situation in South Africa, and even Africa as a whole.
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Format: Paperback
Literary historian Sven Linqvist was introduced to Australia at a young age. An 1896 book described how white European invaders viewed and treated the Aborigines. The story depicted a trio of young European boys encountering a group of Aborigines at a meal. Tucked away in a deep cavern, which to the boys meant the Aborigines couldn't have hunted the meal, the boys immediately concluded the group was engaging in cannibalism. The result was inevitable, the boys opened fire with their carbines, wiping out the "natives". For Lindqvist, it launched a train of thought he pursued years later. Journeying around and through Australia, he brought in his swag a background of European literature dealing with "primitive" peoples. In this vivid account, he takes us on both a geographic and a sociological tour of Australia's historical dealings with its indigenous population. At each stopping point, he relates what occurred to the Aboriginal occupiers there. It's not a pretty story.

The Aborigines were the focus of a good many early ethnographic scholars, almost none of whom set foot on the southern continent. Emile Durkheim, Sigmund Freud, Bronislaw Malinovski, among others, read a few accounts of missionary or other observers to draw novel, if still Euro-centric, ideas of what Aborigine social structure was like and what it meant for human history. The common theme was that primitive societies represented a step on the way to "civilisation". According to Lindqvist, these scholars were uniformly incorrect. Instead of family, clan or even religion binding Aborigine society, it was the land they occupied.
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Another great book from Sven Lindqvist. This is a unique blend of informed travelogue with historical analysis, social anthropolgy, and the origins of modern Australian art & literature.

Lindqvist accounts for how the white European settlement of Australia in turn resulted in the wholesale systematic dispossession of the indigenous aboriginal peoples. Of course it doesn't end there - not only were their lands and waters stolen but there was a conscious attempt to actually exterminate them altogether. Citing countless and varied sources he demonstrates how this peaked in the 1930s - one exponent even calls it 'the final solution' - and would even continue in many aspects well into the post-WW2 era.

Families are seperated, children interned in labour camps, boys made to pearl-dive, girls sent away as maids (often to repeated sexual & physical abuse), mothers would have their babies taken away, and the men would be utterly disenfranchised and often arrested, rounded-up, beaten, disappeared, and even shot. Time after time the authorities would turn a blind eye or even encourage these acts. The prison islands for supposed carriers of STDs were little more than concentration camps for the thousands...

Towards its end, Lindkvist's book explores how through art the persecuted peoples have made a sort of breakthrough into modern Australian identity and consciousness. The subject of restitution is an ongoing one and has clearly become a hot political issue in 21st century Australia.

As others will doubtless echo - all Australians should read this book, but it isn't a story unique to that country alone. We should all look at our own countries and ask ourselves did this happen here? Did we do it over there? Are we still responsible for it happening?
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