In his introduction to Bob Ellis: In his own words, Bob’s son Jack says of his father that ‘writing was his reason for being ... and through his writing he saw himself in conversation with the world’. That conversation stopped on 3 April 2016 with Ellis’s death from neuroendocrine cancer. He was seventy-three. For devotees or those merely curious about his life and times, the conversation continues in the pages of this book compiled by his wife and companion of fifty years, Anne Brooksbank.

The result is a loose autobiography ranging from childhood to final musings about endings and time passing encompassing Ellis’s thoughts on politics, war, friendships, and the wider world selected from blog posts, essays, journalism, diaries, speeches, and scripts (some unpublished).

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  • Custom Article Title Jan McGuinness reviews 'Bob Ellis: In his own words' by Bob Ellis, compiled by Anne Brooksbank
  • Contents Category Memoir
  • Custom Highlight Text

    In his introduction to Bob Ellis: In his own words, Bob’s son Jack says of his father that ‘writing was his reason for being ... and through his writing he saw himself in conversation ...

  • Book Title Bob Ellis
  • Book Author Bob Ellis, compiled by Anne Brooksbank
  • Book Subtitle In his own words
  • Author Type Author
  • Biblio Black Inc. $34.99 pb, 376 pp, 9781863958912

It seems appropriate in an account of justice thwarted that the name of journalist Peter Greste’s father is Juris. In 2013, Greste, an Al Jazeera journalist, was accused with colleagues Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed of conspiring with terrorists and endangering Egyptian security. A show trial followed, and Greste was sentenced to seven years in prison. He says of Juris, his mother Lois, and brothers Michael and Andrew: ‘We fought, struggled, argued and ... loved our way through the ordeal ... Normal family life in other words.’

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  • Custom Article Title Kate Ryan reviews 'Freeing Peter: How an ordinary family fought an extraordinary battle' by Juris Greste et al.
  • Contents Category Memoir
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    It seems appropriate in an account of justice thwarted that the name of journalist Peter Greste’s father is Juris. In 2013, Greste, an Al Jazeera journalist, was accused with colleagues ...

  • Book Title Freeing Peter
  • Book Author Juris Greste et al.
  • Book Subtitle How an ordinary family fought an extraordinary battle
  • Author Type Author
  • Biblio Viking $35 pb, 320 pp, 9780670079315

'Is the Mystery of Raoul Wallenberg's Death Finally Solved?' asked a headline in Israel's Haaretz newspaper, on 6 August 2016. The New York Times published a similar story, reporting on the publication of Notes from a Suitcase: Secret diaries of the first KGB chairman, found over 25 years after his death (2016). Suitcases of journals were discovered hidden in the wall of a house inherited by the granddaughter of the first KGB chairman, Ivan Serov. The diaries state for the first time that the saviour of some 100,000 Hungarian Jews was liquidated on Stalin's orders in a Soviet prison in 1947. Since Wallenberg's arrest by the Soviets, many explanations of his likely fate have circulated, with reported sightings into the 1980s. Determining Wallenberg's fate has been a fervent, worldwide quest. This latest find still needs verification.

Frank Vajda, author of Saved to Remember, published here in June 2016, must be both overcome by this news and disappointed that it did not arrive in time for his book, an account of his own life and his career in medicine, but also a homage to Wallenberg. Like other Hungarians in Australia, Vajda was saved by Wallenberg, an architect and banker turned special envoy sent to Hungary following the Occupation in March 1944. The Nazis, with the complicity of the ruthless Hungarian militia, the Arrow Cross, were determined to rid Hungary of Jews. Vajda's father died of starvation in the Mauthausen camp in 1945 and some sixty members of his extended family also perished.

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  • Custom Article Title Agnes Nieuwenhuizen reviews 'Saved to Remember: Raoul Wallenberg, Budapest 1944 and after' by Frank Vajda
  • Contents Category Memoir
  • Custom Highlight Text

    'Is the Mystery of Raoul Wallenberg's Death Finally Solved?' asked a headline in Israel's Haaretz newspaper, on 6 August 2016. The New York Times published a similar story ...

  • Book Title Saved to Remember
  • Book Author Frank Vajda
  • Book Subtitle Raoul Wallenberg, Budapest 1944 and after
  • Author Type Author
  • Biblio Monash University Publishing $34.95 pb, 158 pp, 9781925377088

Across two new titles, Maxine Beneba Clarke offers an unflinching portrayal of the impact of racism, and transcends form in turning a lens on Australian society. Together, these two works witness the myriad ways in which racism shapes the daily life of its victims, the ongoing impact and the toll on body and mind. We see this damage play out in each work, both in psychological terms and, as she describes in her memoir, physically. 'For most of my school life,' she writes, 'trauma manifested itself on my skin.' Her writing is blunt, uncompromising. Both works utilise repetition to enormous effect, layering instances of prejudice and returning again and again to specific moments of trauma. While the approach in writing differs radically across the two texts, they share stories to create something much larger between them.

The memoir feels in many ways like a shift from Beneba Clarke's poetic approach. It lacks the sharp edge I had expected. Carrying the World offers the same dangerous beauty of her previous poetry collection, nothing here needs fixing (2013) – and indeed incorporates some of the same work. But The Hate Race lacks some of the intricacy of her poetry. The voice is simple and open. Sympathetic to the child's perspective, it predominantly focuses on her school years. And it depends on the appeal of this voice – the familiarity of childhood, the associations of innocence – to carry the emotional power of each moment.

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  • Custom Article Title Catherine Noske reviews 'The Hate Race: A memoir' and 'Carrying the World' by Maxine Beneba Clarke
  • Contents Category Memoir
  • Custom Highlight Text

    Across two new titles, Maxine Beneba Clarke offers an unflinching portrayal of the impact of racism, and transcends form in turning a lens on Australian society ...

  • Book Title The Hate Race
  • Book Author Maxine Beneba Clarke
  • Book Subtitle A memoir
  • Author Type Author
  • Biblio Hachette, $32.99 pb, 271 pp, 9780733632280
  • Book Title 2 Carrying the World
  • Book Author 2 Maxine Beneba Clarke
  • Biblio 2 Hachette, $26.99 pb, 183 pp, 9780733636400
  • Author Type 2 Author

In her mid-thirties, British writer and critic Olivia Laing moved to New York City to live with her partner. When the relationship ended, Laing found herself alone amidst the bustle of New York: 'loneliness, I began to realize, was a populated place: a city in itself'.

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  • Custom Article Title Alexandra Mathew reviews 'Lonely City: Adventures in the art of being alone' by Olivia Laing
  • Contents Category Memoir
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    In her mid-thirties, British writer and critic Olivia Laing moved to New York City to live with her partner. When the relationship ended, Laing found herself alone ...

  • Book Title Lonely City
  • Book Author Olivia Laing
  • Book Subtitle Adventures in the art of being alone
  • Author Type Author
  • Biblio Canongate $34.99 hb, 336 pp, 9781782111238

One of the claims that is sometimes made for the memoir form is that it gives the author a degree of release from the past. Getting it down on paper can also be about getting it out – perhaps even out of the way. The title of Tim Elliott's memoir, Farewell to the Father, suggests that this may have been the goal here; that Elliott, in telling his story, would be able to farewell a man who, we learn, caused much suffering to both himself and his family. A great strength of this book, though, lies with the less satisfying, but I think more realistic, acceptance that definitive goodbyes of this kind are seldom possible. The past, and the layers of entrapment that may lie there, are much more complex than that.

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  • Custom Article Title Kári Gíslason reviews 'Farewell to the Father' by Tim Elliott
  • Contents Category Memoir
  • Custom Highlight Text

    One of the claims that is sometimes made for the memoir form is that it gives the author a degree of release from the past. Getting it down on paper can also be about ...

  • Book Title Farewell to the Father
  • Book Author Tim Elliott
  • Author Type Author
  • Biblio Picador $34.99 pb, 330 pp, 9781743537893

At the bottom of one of Kim Mahood's desert watercolours, she scrawled, 'In the gap between two ways of seeing, the risk is that you see nothing clearly.' A risk for some, but not Mahood. Her work as a visual artist and writer attests to an eye that is unfailing and a lifetime of looking. The subtle gradations and veristic detail of Position Doubtful attest to sustained attentive observation.

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  • Custom Article Title Michael Winkler reviews 'Position Doubtful: Mapping landscapes and memories' by Kim Mahood
  • Contents Category Memoir
  • Custom Highlight Text

    At the bottom of one of Kim Mahood's desert watercolours, she scrawled, 'In the gap between two ways of seeing, the risk is that you see nothing clearly.' A risk for ...

  • Book Title Position Doubtful
  • Book Author Kim Mahood
  • Book Subtitle Mapping landscapes and memories
  • Author Type Author
  • Biblio Scribe $29.99 pb, 336 pp, 9781925321685

Undaunted by Joseph Furphy's autodidactic complexities and indulgences, A.D. Hope proposed in his 1974 collection,  Native Companions, Essays and Comments on Australian Literature 1936–1966, that Such Is Life was 'a novel based on a theory of the novel'.

Reading, with great pleasure, Michael Wilding's Growing Wild, it occurred to me that here was a memoir based on a theory of memoir. The theory involves a refusal to pretend to certainty or precision of memory, an insistence on the fluidity of the past as it constantly reconstructs itself in inadequate or tantalisingly partial remembrance of incidents, places, conversations, faces, random yet possibly significant oddities, and so on. Repeatedly Wilding withdraws from a crystallised version of the past that many biographers, for example, used to claim or aspire to, in favour of degrees of uncertainty: 'he seemed a pleasant enough person', he recalls of meeting Morris Shapira. 'Presented himself so, anyway. He proposed we should have dinner together the night before the interview. Perhaps now ... I would decline ... Perhaps his insistence was too strong; perhaps it was my determined openness to experience which I proclaimed at that time ... As it is, I can remember nothing of the experience, where we ate, whether it was after some official sherry party, if such occurred.'

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  • Custom Article Title Brian Matthews reviews 'Growing Wild' by Michael Wilding
  • Contents Category Memoir
  • Custom Highlight Text

    Undaunted by Joseph Furphy's autodidactic complexities and indulgences, A.D. Hope proposed in his 1974 collection,  Native Companions, Essays and Comments on ...

  • Book Title Growing Wild
  • Book Author Michael Wilding
  • Author Type Author
  • Biblio Arcadia $39.95 pb, 302 pp, 9781925333107

The dislocation of international travel often prompts spontaneous moments of clarity, sparking a renewed awareness of where one is at in life. Stepping out from well-established comfort zones forces us to take stock, whether we like it or not. Australian singer–songwriter Hugo Race details his own scathing scrutiny of his life choices throughout Road Series, a vivid travelogue that follows his idiosyncratic career over the last three and a half decades.

Although he has toured Europe several times and released some twenty albums, Race chooses to single out moments when everything seems to be falling apart for him, both socially and personally. He is acutely aware of the world around him, providing snapshots of a planet always swarming with new threats, from Aids and SARS to escalating terrorism.

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  • Custom Article Title Doug Wallen reviews 'Road Series' by Hugo Race
  • Contents Category Memoir
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    The dislocation of international travel often prompts spontaneous moments of clarity, sparking a renewed awareness of where one is at in life ...

  • Book Title Road Series
  • Book Author Hugo Race
  • Author Type Author
  • Biblio Transit Lounge $29.95 pb, 369 pp, 9780994395801

Memoirs of Eastern European children of the 1920s could hardly be more different than this pair. The old age Marcel Weyland describes in The Boy on the Tricycle is a happy outcome for a boy who fled the Nazis. 'Fortunately,' he writes, 'I quite like what I am.' Before World War II, he describes 'a fairly typically, affluent, middle-European and middle-class, and in our case Jewish, household' in the Polish city of Łódź. They were lucky: Marcel's older sister Halina, who worked at the Republika newspaper, foresaw the events of September 1939, and they fled at her urging. Otherwise, 'we would have perished as the bulk of the Jewish population of Łódź, including most of our relatives, perished'. They set off eastwards, escaping Nazi bombs by a combination of luck and Halina's resourcefulness. Another hero was the Japanese consul in Eastern Europe, who devised a scheme to issue Polish Jews with 'transit' visas allowing them to travel to Japan and (relative) safety. By another tortuous series of accidents, the family spent several years in Shanghai.

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  • Custom Article Title Gillian Dooley reviews 'The Boy on the Tricycle' by Marcel Weyland and 'The May Beetles' by Baba Schwartz
  • Contents Category Memoir
  • Custom Highlight Text

    Memoirs of Eastern European children of the 1920s could hardly be more different than this pair. The old age Marcel Weyland describes in The Boy on the Tricycle ...

  • Book Title The Boy on the Tricycle
  • Book Author Marcel Weyland
  • Author Type Author
  • Biblio Brandl & Schlesinger, $29.95 pb, 256 pp, 9781921556968
  • Book Title 2 The May Beetles
  • Book Author 2 Baba Schwartz
  • Biblio 2 Black Inc., $34.99 hb, 256 pp, 9781863958455
  • Book Cover 2 Small Book Cover 2 Small
  • Author Type 2 Author