After a year reporting from the Middle East, journalist Nicolas Rothwell returned, ill at ease, to his job as northern correspondent for the Australian newspaper. In The Red Highway he chronicles the meanderings and fixations of his quest to re-discover his sense of place.
It’s an uncommon book – a wistful, portentous mix of travel and historical anecdotes, beginning with an essay tracing the work of Czech artist and Aboriginal art collector Karel Kupka (first published in the Monthly).
Like a gentler, more respectful Bruce Chatwin (The Songlines), Rothwell drifts from one expedition to the next, guided by wise, enigmatic friends who intuit his innermost conflicts and slowly reveal the Top End’s secrets. He delves into spiritual landscapes and the lives of forgotten adventurers, seeing omens and patterns everywhere he goes.
Beyond his vague sense of dislocation, however, Rothwell gives away little of himself. He has crafted a collection of well-researched, compellingly told vignettes. Together, they form a distant, dream-like sweep, rich with unresolved meaning. Like a dream, the book’s mesmerising tone will linger – even if you don’t know quite what happened.