In 1977 after two years of rigorous preparation, Robyn Davidson, then in her 20s, set off on her own with a dog, four camels and equipment for a 1700 mile trek across the Australian outback. It was a trip of firsts; a liberating experience that was captured in her book, Tracks.
“It’s the easiest book I’ve ever written,” Robyn admits straight away.
“It was easy in the sense that I was full of confidence and I didn’t know how hard it was to write so I wasn’t sort of on my back like a monkey. Also, I think it was still so vivid to me and that sense of it being a very vivid, wonderful thing in my life gave me a lot of impetus for writing.”
“I didn’t keep any notes at all on the journey and I didn’t write it until two years later. I wrote it while in England far away from the environment but I remembered everything and I seemed to remember the whole nine months in great clarity. Then as soon as I’d written the book it sort of took over the original memories in a way.”
Since then Robyn has continued to live a relatively nomadic life, travelling around the globe including time spent with the Rabari in northwest India in 1992.
Her time spent in India was nothing like the successes of her travels through the Australian outback, and as a result her book Desert Places, illustrating her time spent with the Rabari living off flatbread, goat’s milk and parasite infested water, was a book of failures – something she is more than happy to portray.
“I think life is always about success and failure and that’s just what life is,” she says.
“Some things you succeed at and some you don’t and it’s how you ride both of those things that makes life. Ultimately, I think success and failure are very subjective things.”
Honesty always has been, and still is, of huge importance to Robyn and it’s something she has maintained throughout her career as a writer. A test on honesty for all in the industry comes when those in the film industry take on their book, and Robyn’s honesty has shone new light on the experience for others.
“I liked all the people involved and I think I was realistic about that a film will never be a book, it cannot be a book,” she says.
“As long as the filmmakers make an honourable attempt to sort of stick with the essence of the book, that’s as good as it gets really. Because a book has to solve certain problems and a film has to solve different sorts of problems, so I think writers are naïve when they think that their book, as they conceived it, will find an exact replica on the screen – it doesn’t work like that.”
Robyn will discuss the adaptation of books to film alongside Raimond Gaita (Romulus My Father) at the Bendigo Writers Festival on Sunday, August 9. Also at the festival will be Rohan Anderson (Whole Larder Love), John Marsden (Tomorrow When the War Began), Nam Le (The Boat) and many others.
For the full program and for tickets please visit: www.bendigowritersfestival.com.au.
When & Where: Bendigo Writers Festival, various locations – August 7-9
Written by Amanda Sherring