From vanishing islands to talking flathead and nightmarish bushfires, Ben Walter’s visionary Tasmanian fictions are unique in the landscape of Australian writing. An unemployed man chooses only to apply for jobs advertised in The Economist; a failed mountain expedition is mocked by the dead bodies of past climbers; and a father and son travel urgently to witness the miracle of Lake Pedder emptying. In What Fear Was, Walter combines beautiful, mesmerising writing with surreal discomfort and absurdist hilarity to completely upend the idea of an Australian short story.
Lyrical and inventive, savage and strange. You’ve never read anyone like Ben Walter. Total mastery of language and imagery, paired with an unrivalled imagination and immense storytelling chutzpah. The shot in the arm Australian literature has been screaming for.
What Fear Was is a darkly funny, surreal and tender collection, wonderfully Tasmanian in its entanglements. You never know where Ben Walter’s stories will take you – there are no straight lines here – but it’s truly a pleasure to follow his trail.
With its unforgettable descriptions of the natural world, and the unsettling things that sometimes take place there, What Fear Was is an extraordinary collection of stories. Deeply strange, beautifully lyrical and intensely moving; no one in Australia writes like Ben Walter. The weird realism of What Fear Was is wholly unique and deeply valuable in contemporary Australian fiction.