Werner Pelz: Listening to the unspoken

Werner Pelz: Listening to the unspoken

Exile: The Lives and Hopes of Werner Pelz

by Roger Averill

Transit Lounge, $32.95 pb, 367 pp, 9781921924217

In 1985, at La Trobe University, a sociology undergraduate is in a tutorial with his supervisor. He has chosen to write 6000 words on the role of art and the artist in capitalist societies and his sixty-four-year-old tutor has, rather surprisingly, encouraged him.

In fact, as the student, Roger Averill, comes to know the older man, he realises that ‘for him, my over-reaching was a promising sign’. The two men, one a young Australian, the other, Werner Pelz, a Jewish exile from Nazi Germany, became great friends. This friendship was an extension of the gift, Averill says, that Pelz, a charismatic teacher from a different time and place, offered his students. ‘Unlike most erudite people, Werner seemed as eager to listen as he was to teach. In time, I came to realise that this, his emphasis on listening, was one of the things he was teaching.’

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Peter Kenneally

Peter Kenneally

Peter Kenneally is a freelance editor, writer and reviewer, and poet. In 2005 his suite of poems Memento Mori was selected for the anthology of the Newcastle Poetry Prize, and in 2007 his piece ‘a streetlamp goes out when I walk under it’ was commended in the New Media section of the same prize. He has appeared in The Australian, Southerly, and Island, among other publications.


Published in April 2013 no. 350

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