The Diaries of Donald Friend, Vol. 4
National Library of Australia, $59.95 hb, 712 pp
The final volume of the diaries of Donald Friend covers the years from 1966, when he was fifty-one, to 1988, the year before his death. For a little over half this period (represented by more than two thirds of the diary entries), Friend lived in Bali. He did so in some splendour, waited on by a retinue of houseboys and visited by the distinguished and the celebrated. This was before mass tourism. There are extensive descriptions of Balinese life – the people, their customs, the religious festivals – and of the ancient monuments. These are of interest, but there is little of Friend in them. He could have been writing a travelogue. There is much on his collecting expeditions for Balinese artefacts, his property developments and his problems with thieves. It is not the quotidian nature of these activities which is the problem. A skilful diarist allows us to see the mundane afresh, through his or her peculiar lens. Here, again, Friend seems to have gone missing.