Alexis Wright’s The Swan Book: Indigenous-Australian swansong or songline?

Alexis Wright’s The Swan Book: Indigenous-Australian swansong or songline? Journal Article


  • Author(s): Renes, Cornelis M. B.
  • Published: 2021
  • Volume: 10
  • ISBN: 2076-0787

Abstract: The Swan Book (pub. 2013) by the Indigenous-Australian author Alexis Wright is an eco-dystopian epic about the Indigenous people’s tough struggle to regain the environmental balance of the Australian continent and recover their former habitat. The book envisions a dire future in which all Australian flora and fauna—humans included—are under threat, suffering, displaced, and dying out as the result of Western colonization and its exploitative treatment of natural resources. The Swan Book goes beyond the geographical and epistemological scope of Wright’s previous two novels, Plains of Promise (pub. 1997) and Carpentaria (pub. 2006) to imagine what the Australian continent at large will look like under the ongoing pressure of the Western, exploitative production mode in a foreseeable future. The occupation of Aboriginal land in Australia’s Northern Territory since 2007 has allowed the federal government to intervene dramatically in what they term the dysfunctional remote Aboriginal communities; these are afflicted by transgenerational trauma, endemic domestic violence, alcoholism, and child sexual and substance abuse—in themselves the results of the marginal status of Indigeneity in Australian society—and continued control over valuable resources. This essay will discuss how Wright’s dystopian novel exemplifies an Indigenous turn to speculative fiction as a more successful way to address the trials and tribulations of Indigenous Australia and project a better future—an enabling songline rather than a disabling swansong.

Cite this document

Suggested Citation
Renes, Cornelis M. B., 2021, Alexis Wright’s The Swan Book: Indigenous-Australian swansong or songline?, Volume:10, Journal Article, viewed 15 July 2024,

Endnote Mendeley Zotero Export Google Scholar

Share this page

Search again