A Horse of Air

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A Horse of Air
Author Dal Stivens
Country Australia
Language English
Genre Novel
Publisher Angus and Robertson, Australia
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)

A Horse of Air is a Miles Franklin Award winning novel by Australian author Dal Stivens. The horse of the title makes reference to the Australian Aboriginal term for the night parrot. When horses where first introduced to the Australian mainland, their galloping motion was said to resemble the flight of the now critically endangered low-flying parrot. Stivens was himself a keen ornithologist who favoured finches over parrots.[1] The novel centres on the ravings of its chief narrator, Harry Craddock. Harry uses his wealth and influence in elite circles to organise a search for the elusive bird. But his discontent with mainstream Australian society is clear. On p. 67, for example, he proclaims: "Australians are a nation of nobodies and ning-nongs - we deserve every ounce of the continent's indifference!"

The novel advocates a return to the colonial visions of Ernest Giles, who sought to open up the heart of the continent for industrial development, including uranium mining. Giles sees opportunity in the "Valleys of Palms" that spring from the Simpson Dessert. The novel, originally hailed as a modern classic when it received the Miles Franklin Award in 1971, quickly slipped into obscurity. The only reprint was offered in 1986 by Penguin Books, with original cover art by Australian Artist, Brett Whitely.


  1. ^ 'Dal Stivens: the writer with the finches', pp. 32-6, in Australian Field Ornithology, Summer 1968
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Clean Straw for Nothing
Miles Franklin Award recipient
Succeeded by
The Unknown Industrial Prisoner