'While many contemporary Australian writers pitch their narratives on the coastal fringes, where most Australians reside, Nicolas Rothwell returns obsessively to the interior where one senses a sense of unfinished business. The spatial instabilities that resulted from the settler colonial project act as a catalyst for unsettling prior forms of knowledge and belief. Rothwell’s works feature real-and-imagined characters caught between fiction and non-fiction, the lies in the land and the lie of the land. His narratives create a form of generic disorientation that has a political, social and epistemological purpose. Central to Rothwell’s literary project is the reminder that spatial representations influence spatial practices. The author advocates for a break from the novelistic tradition; the country has seen enough literary and legal fictions that had catastrophic consequences for the native population and the environment.
'I argue that Rothwell’s spatial and literary renegotiations culminate in the formation of a new literary genre, the narrative essay. The author decolonises place, space and literary forms to articulate ethical models of non-belonging. Rothwell offers a transformative sublime aesthetics that I analyse as an expression of Bill Ashcroft’s ‘horizonal sublime’ and Christopher Hitt’s ‘ecological sublime’. I compare Rothwell’s ethics of representation, characterised by a self-reflexive prose, narrative instability and narrative regression, to that of Anglo-German author W.G. Sebald, who uses similar techniques in his evocation of a ruined Europe. Rothwell not only presents man’s propensity for a ‘Natural History of Destruction’, he is also intent on identifying the mechanisms at work in building the future.' (Publication abstract)