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The Fatal Lure of Politics: The life and thought of Vere Gordon Childe by Terry Irving

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A young Australian radical, who finds academic success later in life, struggles with an inexorable question: what is the relationship between these two worlds: the activist and the scholar? This question animated the life of Vere Gordon Childe, the Australian Marxist and intellectual whose The Dawn of Euro pean Civilization (1925) helped establish modern archaeology, as it has his most recent biographer, activist and labour historian Terry Irving, whose Class Structure in Australian History (1981, with Raewyn Connell) remains a key text.


April 2019, no. 410

Meredith Curnow is Publisher of the Month

I am very proud of most of the books I have published. Some that stand out include Kate McClymont and Linton Besser’s He Who Must Be Obeid, which involved us all in a world of pain, but also instigated the case against Eddie Obeid. Working with Julia Gillard on My Story was rather special, and last year I published Rusted Off from Gabrielle Chan ...


May 2019, no. 411

Open Page with Judith Brett

Camping at Thurra River in the Croajingalong National Park, swimming in its tannin estuary, cooking fresh fish, gossiping while walking its long white beaches, watching the sea eagles soar.



Open Page with Trent Dalton

I’m the buffoon with the flailing arms thanking every last booklover who dropped some hard-earned money, cleared the diary for an hour, hopped in their car, paid for parking, found the right tent on the map, and came to hear me talk about the thing that makes my legs move.

From the Archive

February 2006, no. 278

Tête-À-Tête: The lives and loves of Simone De Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre by Hazel Rowley

Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir are both mythical figures. They are also a mythical couple, a symbol of lifelong intellectual and personal commitment to each other and to commonly espoused causes. Of the two, Beauvoir is probably the more widely read today, because of her foundational role in the development of feminism, and the relative accessibility of her writing. In comparison, Sartre’s work, with the exception of his elegantly self-mocking autobiography, Les Mots (1966), is more difficult. His opus is as eclectic as it is voluminous – covering philosophy, prose fiction, theatre, political essays and literary criticism – and it is often dense. With Beauvoir, the reader is always in the presence of a person; with Sartre, we witness above all a mind at work, a brilliant intelligence grappling with whatever problem or issue it has decided to take on. In both cases, their work had a profound impact, mirroring and inspiring fundamental changes in thought and mores. Sartre and Beauvoir shared a philosophy – which went, somewhat loosely, under the name of existentialism – that held that human individuals and societies had the capacity to determine their own destiny, free of the weight of history and tradition. In the wake of World War II, and in the context of the ideological stalemate and nuclear threats of the Cold War, this philosophy of possibility and freedom offered an alternative to the ambient pessimism. It promised not passive resistance but transformative action by and for a humanity willing to create its own future.

From the Archive

August 1981, no. 33

Moonlite by David Foster

I’ve always had a terror of one day having to explain a joke. And now it’s happened. Moonlite is one of the jokiest books since Such Is Life which in its turn reminds us of the even jokier Tristram Shandy and behind that no less than Rabelais himself. The best way to talk about Moonlite, then, is perhaps to say that it is bouncing, bewildering, wilful and – very occasionally – boring, just as these books are.

From the Archive

November 1989, no. 116

The Bay of Contented Men by Robert Drewe

‘When Australians run away, they always run to the coast.’ Robert Drewe has already debunked the myth of the bush as Australia’s heartland, and in The Bodysurfers pictured us living and loving on the very rim of the continent, precariously perched in salty, sweaty, and essentially temporary hedonistic bliss between the threat of the empty outback, the incendiary bush, and the menace of the ocean with its sharp­toothed predators and secret stingers.

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