Books: A Desert Tragedy

COOPER'S CREEK by Alan Moorehead. 222 pages. Harper & Row. $5.95.

In the deceptively simple form of an historical narrative, Alan Moorehead has provided his native Australia with a national myth—and a singularly bitter parable of defeat and frustration it is.

Cooper's Creek is the story of the two explorers, Burke and Wills, who in 1861 became the first to cross the Australian continent from south to north, and who died of starvation and exhaustion on the way back. This dispiriting episode is lifted to symbolic status by the simple power of the narrative and...

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