Terra Nullius | Granta

  • Published: 02/02/2012
  • ISBN: 9781847085214
  • 129x20mm
  • 256 pages

Terra Nullius

Sven Lindqvist

Translated by Sarah Death

In the critically acclaimed Desert Divers and Exterminate All the Brutes, Sven Lindqvist travelled through Africa’s deserts and unearthed the cruelty of colonialism. Now he has done the same for Australia. Lindqvist travels through the south of the country, lyrically describing its landscape, flora and fauna and geology, while also telling the history of the country and revealing the shocking treatment of its Aboriginal peoples. He catalogues some truly shocking abuses, such as the rounding up of Aborigine women for transportation to the chillingly named ‘Isle of the Dead’ for inappropriate and often fatal syphilis treatment, and the extensive forced separation of ‘half-blood’ children from their families to squalid prison-like camps. Stretching from the formation of the Australian continent 600 million years ago to the 2002 hunger strikes in the Woomera detention camp, Terra Nullius leaves us with a strong sense of Australia as a piece of earth, steeped in geological and tragic human history.

Terra Nullius is the latest instalment in Sven Lindqvist's confrontation with the genocidal consequences of Western advancement ... Lindqvist's strength is the sheer heat of his passions and the boldness with which he attacks complacency ... The landscape, and his journeying, are brilliantly rendered by a master of worldly insight and stylistic precision ... a work of urgent necessity and a heart-warming marvel


Readers of his earlier masterpieces, A History of Bombing and Exterminate all the Brutes will know that Sven Lindqvist is a brilliant and original writer as well as a fierce polemicist. With Terra Nullius he has undertaken another devastating journey of historical exploration.

Geoff Dyer



The Author

Sven Lindqvist (1932-2019) was born in Stockholm, and travelled extensively through Asia, Africa and Latin America. He was the author of thirty books, including A History of Bombing, Desert Divers, which was shortlisted for the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award, and Exterminate All the Brutes, which formed the basis of a major HBO four-part documentary series by Academy Award-nominated writer and director Raoul Peck.

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The Translator

Sarah Death has translated Swedish literature of many periods and genres, including works by Lena Andersson, Kerstin Ekman, Selma Lagerlöf, Astrid Lindgren, Sven Lindqvist, Göran Rosenberg and Steve Sem-Sandberg. Her most recent translation was Letters from Tove, the correspondence of Finland-Swedish author and artist Tove Jansson. She has twice won the George Bernard Shaw Prize for translation from Swedish, and in 2014 received the Royal Order of the Polar Star for services to Swedish literature. In autumn 2019, she was partnered with young writer Channa Riedel to participate in the Jewish Book Week/Beit Venezia Writers in Translation Project.

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From the Same Author

Sven Lindqvist on Granta.com

Essays & Memoir | The Online Edition

To Zinder

Sven Lindqvist

Obsessed with a single line from Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness – Kurtz’s injunction to ‘Exterminate All the Brutes’ – Sven Lindqvist set out across Central Africa, and wrote a book that revealed precisely what Europe’s imperial powers had exacted on Africa’s people over the course of the preceding two centuries.