A Radical Life: The autobiography of Russel Ward
Macmillan, 264 pp, $35.00 hb
What would you like to know? Doc Evatt’s on-the-spot explanation of why he wrote to Molotov? Archbishop Mannix’s response to Cardinal Spellman’s claim on the papacy? The particular pleasure derived from small boys by the headmaster of Geelong Grammar Junior School? How a knowledge of Urdu maintained the Hands off Indonesia blockade? What Malcolm Ellis said to Charles Currey when the lift opened? All those delights and more tumble out of Russel Ward’s autobiography.
Several of Ward’s anecdotes deserve to become what E.H. Carr called ‘historical facts’ – not just events that happened but items selected by scholars as typifying a process. For example, the examiners’ report on his completely unfootnoted 1948 MA on Eliot’s poetry pointed out that ‘it is possible to dislike what one may call the idea of the Jew without being anti-Semitic.’ The wisdom of literary criticism far surpasseth that of Solomon.