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A German traveller in the age of gold

Friedrich Gerstäcker, Peter Monteath

Friedrich Gerstäcker, the most illustrious and prolific of German travel writers, set foot in Australia in March 1851, having walked across the Andes, traipsed the goldfields of California, and sailed over the Pacific in search of new adventures.

Gerstäcker found adventures aplenty in Australia. He rowed and trekked down the Murray, absorbed the excitement triggered by the discovery of gold, visited his countrymen in South Australia, and trained his outsider's eyes on a colonial society gripped by profound change.

In this translated edition of Gerstäcker's book Australien, his lively travelogue is made available for the first time in English. Rarely has Australia's colonial past been presented with such insight, humour and entertainment.

Praise for Australia:
'A chronicle of Australia’s rip-roaring colonial days, Gerstäcker’s lively account of Sydney Town as cartloads of men and their equipment made their way to the goldfields is written with humour and insight and gives a vivid image of those times. Here is a fascinating account of what this huge country was like then with all its dangers, delights and curiosities.' - Mary Ann Elliott, The Chronicle, Toowoomba

'Well worth reading, both for its account of colonial Australia and for the author’s engaging style.' - Christopher Menz, Australian Book Review

'Infused with insight and humour, this is a great read for anyone embarking on their own Australian travels or with an interest in our colonial past.' - Retiree

'Gerstäcker's Australien offers drama, humour, suspense, excitement and a heightened sense of the exotic. Yet amid the exotic - and perhaps this feature lay at the core of Gerstäcker's genius - there was also and always the reassuringly familiar. Whether he was describing the Australian bush or the jungle of Brazil, a small piece of Germany was never far away. No other author united the familiar and the exotic as successfully as Gerstäcker did.' - Nic Klaassen, Flinders Ranges Research

'What a determined traveller! ... Truly an interesting read.' - R.H., ARPA News

'Very entertaining.' - Marie, The Big Book Club

'A very readable translation which provides an eye witness view of Australia in 1851.' - Jan Kershaw, Glam Adelaide

'A travel writer with a wit to rival Bill Bryson.' - Nick Mattiske, Inside Story

'A fascinating read, not just because of what [Gerstäcker] sees but also in the preconceptions that his descriptions reveal ... Gerstäcker‘s observations of the Indigenous population are the most interesting part of his account and include valuable insights. He approached his contacts with the Indigenous population from an assumed position of superiority and suspicion but nevertheless records their living conditions in an objective manner' - Grant Hansen, Good Reading

'The best travel writers are those who, in addition to that, use language well and give us themselves. Gerstäcker is such a writer. He provides revealing insights into mid-nineteenth century Australia. But, in addition, his writing is engaging: it has touches of humour mixed with deeper reflection, it includes some gorgeous descriptions, and we get a sense of who he is.' - Sue Terry, Whispering Gums

'Professor Monteath's book is well referenced and intelligently edited and makes a serous contribution to a scholarly analysis of Australian life through German eyes in the 1950s. .... thoroughly readable and informative.' - Katherine Reynolds, Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society

'The book not only offers the reader a different perspective on this era in Australia’s history, but also highlights just how different the Australia of less than 200 years ago is to the Australia of today.' - Raelke Grimmer, Transnational Literature

'Vibrant insights into transimperial links with Indigenous and settler Australia from narrative and scientific perspectives.' - Julie McIntyre, Journal of Australian Colonial History

'Gerstäcker's lively, honest and unadulterated account of his travels from Sydney to Adelaide provides a rich snapshot of colonial life in 1851. There is much of interest for a wide and diverse range of historians and general readers in this beautifully edited and translated book.' - Skye Krichauff, Journal of the Historical Society of South Australia

Friedrich Gerstäcker was born in Hamburg in 1816. Inspired by the writing of Daniel Defoe, he set off for America in 1837 intending to become a farmer, and sent his mother a diary of his adventures. He returned to Germany in 1843 to discover that his mother had been publishing his diaries in a periodical to great popularity, and so his career as a best-selling writer began.

Over the course of his adventurous life Gerstäcker travelled to both the Americas, Tahiti, Indonesia, Egypt, and Australia. His trips were funded by a fruitful relationship with his publisher, and his considerable output was devoured by a legion of devoted readers, making Gerstäcker a household name for many years.

Friedrich Gerstäcker died in 1872, suffering a stroke while preparing for a trip to Asia.

Editor Peter Monteath, a Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, teaches History in the School of International Studies at Flinders University, Adelaide. His recent books include POW: Australian prisoners of war in Hitler's Reich, Red Professor: The Cold War life of Fred Rose (with Valerie Munt), Interned: Torrens Island 1914–1915 (with Mandy Paul and Rebecca Martin), and the edited collection Germans: Travellers, settlers and their descendants in South Australia.

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Format Paperback
Size 234 x 156 mm
ISBN 9781743054192
Extent 320 pages
Price: AU$39.95 including GST
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