Books: Coming Up from Down Under THE FATAL SHORE

Up from Down Under THE FATAL SHORE by Robert Hughes; Knopf; 688 pages; $24.95

Before Australia was Australia it was the antipodes, the opposite pole to civilization, an obscure and unimaginable place that was, literally, the end of the world. And before it became a nation, this orphan continent on which European history had left no mark at all became the site of a bizarre and dreadful social experiment. For almost a hundred years, beginning in 1788, it served as a human trash heap where England exiled some 160,000 members of its criminal class.

Although the legacy of the transportation system is strong, Australians have been eager to obliterate what came to be known as...

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