Werner Pelz: Listening to the unspoken

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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Published in April 2013 no. 350

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