Tracker by Alexis Wright is this year’s Stella Prize winner. A collective memoir of the legendary Tracker Tilmouth, this epic read tells of everything from Tracker’s childhood removed from his family and brought up on a mission to the charismatic Aboriginal leader running around federal parliament winding up all the politicians. A forward thinking advocate for the self-determination of Aboriginal people Tracker was controversial and explosive. Wright has used interviews from Tracker and his family members to politicians and numerous government employees to bring the notorious Tracker to life within the pages.
I’m not going to lie, I had many complicated thoughts about Tracker. I absolutely loved some aspects of this epic time but also struggled with other aspects of it. Overall, I loved the idea behind the writing of this one. Communal storytelling is an important aspect of Aboriginal culture, with all their histories and legends passed down orally and I think it is perfectly representative of this fascinating man for his life to be told in such a complex piece of work pulled together by Wright. Tracker was an amazing and intelligent leader worthy of all six hundred pages of this tome.
On the other hand it is an extremely long read to be taken as a marathon and not a sprint, there is simply too much to be taken it to race through this one. If it were fiction I would say it needed some heavy editing, however, how can you cull a person’s life story? With Tracker you simply can’t. I will note that the colloquial language that is used, while honest and representative, can get confusing and a little exhausting over time. Reading Tracker will also be made easier by having an understanding of Australian politics of the time and notable players in the landscape of the time.
In all honesty, if this book hadn’t have won I likely would have given up and not finished it. I am glad that I persevered though despite the tedium as I feel there was much to be learned and gained from this reading experience. Tracker is most definitely worth a read but it possibly helps to go in prepared for what it is and plan to read it at a slower pace to allow yourself to soak up all the information without it becoming overwhelming.