Modern mega-farms are like nothing on earth. Imagine a vast black field stretching from horizon to horizon. A driverless tractor glides across the skyline spreading synthetic fertiliser. A cluster of grain towers looms over an empty asphalt parking lot. A row of pig sheds gleams in the distance. The square blot of the manure lagoon simmers in the hot sun. There are no trees. No birds. No mess. Everything is orderly, unpeopled, and entirely alien.... (read more)
The world evoked by British nature writer and historian Helen Macdonald in her new collection of essays is haunted by no end of unsettling and shrouded presences. The sight of a flock of starlings gives her a shiver of fear. Why? Because in her imagination the flock connects with a mass of refugees. The sight of falcon eggs in an incubator makes her unaccountably upset. Then she remembers that she, too, as a very premature baby, was once kept alive in just such a box. And on it goes.... (read more)
Andrew Fuhrmann reviews 'Flight Lines: Across the globe on a journey with the astonishing ultramarathon birds' by Andrew Darby
It’s late July and high over the foggy green waters of the Sea of Okhotsk, a solitary Grey Plover beats its way south. Within sight of Sakhalin Island, the former Russian prison colony documented by Anton Chekhov, she veers west, heading for a vast tidal flat in Ul’banskiy Bay, not far from the rural settlement of Tugur Village. It’s hard to imagine a more isolated situation, and yet even here, in this empty theatre of sky and water, there is an audience. Nestled under the plumage on her back is a small satellite transmitter. An aerial extending beyond her tail feathers broadcasts her progress to the world.... (read more)
The original French version of Waiting for Godot was written in Paris between October 1948 and January 1949. This was a time of mass migration in Europe, when a flood of displaced humanity washed across the continent. It was a time of refugees, exiles, immigrants, fugitives, and transients. France settled more than 38,000 ...... (read more)
To celebrate the best books of 2017 Australian Book Review invited nearly forty contributors to nominate their favourite titles. Contributors include Michelle de Kretser, Susan Wyndham, James Ley, Geordie Williamson, Jane Sullivan, Tom Griffiths, Mark Edele, and Brenda Niall.... (read more)
In the late 1950s, when he was a fellow at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Learning, George Steiner overheard the legendary J. Robert Oppenheimer, at that time head of the Institute, dressing down a young physicist outside his door: ‘You are so young,’ boomed the father of the atomic bomb, ‘and you have already done so little!’ The story appears ...... (read more)
Andrew Fuhrmann reviews 'The Legacies of Bernard Smith: Essays on Australian Art, history and cultural politics' edited by Jaynie Anderson, Christopher R. Marshall, and Andrew Yip
A persistent fascination attaches to those who help break the new wood, and so it is with Bernard Smith (1916–2011). His contribution is foundational to the study of the arts in Australia. Smith was for more than sixty years the country’s leading art historian, but he was also an educator, curator, newspaper critic, collector, memoirist, and biographer. Even as ...
Is it surprising that Jeff Sparrow should write a book on Paul Robeson, the great American singer who was also a civil rights activist, a man of the left, and the most celebrated Othello of the twentieth century? Sparrow is a broadcaster and columnist, but he is also the immediate past editor of Overland, a literary journal dedicated to a mixed diet of – ...
Quicksilver begins in magniloquence, like the prophet Isaiah. It was the cold midwinter season, we are told, when Nicolas Rothwell began his days of journeying, driving west from Papunya in the Northern Territory towards Marble Bar in Western Australia. ‘The roads were empty: for the best part of a week I saw no trace of man and his works.’ As he drove, ...