Peter Job, a former East Timor activist, has written a careful, dispassionate account of the stance of Gough Whitlam’s and Malcolm Fraser’s successive governments in relation to Portuguese East Timor. He has consulted a commendably wide range of oral and written sources, interviewing, for example, several retired senior Australian officials formerly engaged in the design and implementation of Timor policy. His story ends in 1983, with Bob Hawke’s election to office. Job should be encouraged to complete his account in the future to acquaint readers with developments up to at least the UN intervention in 1999 that gave Australian diplomacy a new role.
Two Women and a Poisoning by Alfred Döblin, translated by Imogen Taylor
In Two Women and a Poisoning, Alfred Döblin (1878–1957), one of the twentieth century’s greatest fiction writers, brings his other gift – a profound insight into psychological suffering honed by decades of experience as a psychiatrist – to bear on a baffling murder trial in Berlin in March 1923. Like Sigmund Freud’s famous case histories, his account is compelling as both narrative and an analysis of the unconscious inner conflicts of the people involved. Unlike Freud, however, Döblin warns his readers not to expect definitive answers: ‘Who is so conceited as to fancy that he knows the true driving forces behind such a crime?’
The Brilliant Boy: Doc Evatt and the great Australian dissent by Gideon Haigh
To write of Herbert Vere Evatt (1894–1965) is to venture into a land where opinions are rarely held tentatively. While many aspects of his career have been controversial, his actions during the famous Split of 1955 arouse the most passionate criticism. Evatt is attacked, not only on the political right but frequently from within the Labor Party itself, for his alleged role in causing the catastrophic rupture that kept Labor out of office until 1972.
Radicals: Remembering the Sixties edited by Meredith Burgmann and Nadia Wheatley
Now in their early seventies, and friends since their late-night meeting over the metaphysical poets and the leftover toast, Burgmann and Wheatley have collaborated on a collection of twenty portraits or profiles of Australian contemporaries who, like them, came of age in the late 1960s and took part in activities and demonstrations against whatever they found most oppressive. Much of this oppression was personified, directly or indirectly, in the figure of Robert Menzies, whose second stint as prime minister of Australia ran from 1949 to 1966. Burgmann and Wheatley make this point in their Introduction: ‘For a twenty-year-old Australian today, who has lived through seven Prime Ministers, it would be impossible to imagine how stultifying it was to grow up under a single one – and a patriarchal, conservative one at that.’
Sincerely, Ethel Malley by Stephen Orr
‘Ern Malley’ – a great literary creation and the occasion of a famous literary hoax – has continued to attract fascinated attention ever since he burst upon the Australian poetry scene more than seventy years ago. But his sister Ethel has attracted little notice, she who set off the whole saga by writing to Max Harris, the young editor of Angry Penguins, asking whether the poems left by her late brother were any good, and signing herself ‘sincerely, Ethel Malley’.
Let’s start with a portrait. The year is 1993. The book is My Kind of People. Its author is Wayne Coolwell, a journalist. Who are Coolwell’s kind of people? Ernie Dingo, for one. Sandra Eades. Noel Pearson. Archie Roach. And there, sandwiched between opera singer Maroochy Barambah and dancer Linda Bonson is Stan Grant, aged thirty. Circa 1993, Grant is a breakthrough television presenter and journalist whose mother remembers him coming home to read the newspaper while the other kids went to play footy. ‘[T]here was a maturity and a sense of order about him,’ Coolwell writes. The order belies his parents’ life of ‘tin humpies, dirt floors, and usually only the one bed for all the kids in the family’.
Racism: Stories on fear, hate and bigotry edited by Winnie Dunn, Stephen Pham, and Phoebe Grainer
Sweatshop, based in Western Sydney, is a writing and literacy organisation that mentors emerging writers from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. Racism, their ninth anthology, brings together all thirty-nine writers involved in their three programs – the Sweatshop Writers Group, Sweatshop Women Collective, and Sweatshop Schools Initiative.
As the March and April evenings grew hotter, the streets of East Beirut were as empty as our calendars. The grumble of traffic had disappeared. Without the usual smokescreen, the nearby mountains and coastline were visible for weeks. Parks are scarce in Beirut and gardens are private, but this spring, vines and bougainvillea were clambering over the high walls and no one was trimming them. It was possible to take solitary walks and hear birdsong.
People seeking asylum are off trend. As the black and brown people on boats have stopped arriving on Australia’s shores, so has our interest in them waned. In commemoration, a boat-shaped trophy sits in Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s office, inscribed with the words ‘I Stopped These’. Today, Australians seem preoccupied by the vaccine roll-out and allegations of rape in parliament. With a federal election on the horizon, people seeking asylum and refugees seem passé, a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind’.