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June 27, 1993|CHARLES SOLOMON

STRADBROKE DERAMTIME by Oodgeroo Nunukul (Imprint/Angus & Robertson: $10; 93 pp., paperback original); THE TRACK TO BRALGU by B. Wongar (Imprint/Angus & Robertson: $10; 120 pp., paperback original) ; THE MASTER OF GHOST DREAMING by Mudrooroo (Imprint/Angus & Robertson: $10; 148 pp.; paperback original). The fiction of three Aboriginal writers, appearing for the first time in the United States, illuminates the plight of the indigenous people of Australia. At the center of all three books lies the Dreamtime, a complex system of beliefs that outsiders find difficult to comprehend: More than a mythic past, the Dreamtime reveals how to keep life in balance with universe. Nunukul's short stories blend tales of the Dreamtime with brief, fictionalized accounts of her childhood. These gentle pictures of a loving but impoverished family confronting racial discrimination recall the autobiographical stories of many African-American writers. A darker, angrier tone and the loss of the Dreamtime magic mark the stories of B. Wongar. In bitter, unflinching prose, he describes life in prison, intercultural insensitivity and the appalling practice of using Aborigines as human bloodhounds to track escaped prisoners. Mudrooroo's complex, ambitious novel focuses on the moral duel between Fada, a loutish 19th-Century British missionary, eager to aggrandize himself by leading (or dragging) the heathen to the light, and Jangamuttuk, an aging shaman striving to preserve his people from the new beliefs that have brought spiritual and physical death to so many. In a fantastic series of visions, Mudrooroo evokes the ritual trances that enable Jangamuttuk to seek the aid of puissant ancestral spirits in his search for "the net of power that kept the entire Earth together." A challenging and provocative work by a noteworthy writer.

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