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Colin Nettelbeck

Colin Nettelbeck is an Emeritus Professor at the University of Melbourne, where he held the A.R. Chisholm Chair of French. He taught previously at the University of California (Berkeley) and Monash University. He has written extensively about twentieth-century and contemporary French literature, cinema, and cultural history, with special focus on the French experience of World War II. His most recent book is Dancing with de Beauvoir: Jazz and the French, published by Melbourne University Press in 2004. His essay ‘Kneecapper: a Trip to Happiness’ (published in the Autumn 2011 Meanjin Quarterly) was shortlisted for the 2010 Calibre Prize for an Outstanding Essay. He was awarded second prize in the 2012 Calibre Prize for ‘Now They’ve Gone’.

Colin Nettelbeck reviews 'Silences and Secrets' by Kay Dreyfus

September 2013, no. 354 27 August 2013
Kay Dreyfus was inspired to write about the Weintraubs Syncopators after seeing a German documentary at the Melbourne Jewish Film Festival in 2000. The film recounted the story of this interwar dance and variety band, which had earned fame in Josef von Sternberg’s The Blue Angel (1930), and later used a European tour to escape from Hitler’s jazz- and Jew-hating régime. After a music-driven ad ... (read more)

Colin Nettelbeck reviews 'Algerian Chronicles' by Albert Camus, edited by Alice Kaplan, translated by Arthur Goldhammer

May 2013, no. 351 28 April 2013
On 13 May 1958 a French military junta seized power in Algiers. Choreographed by Jacques Soustelle, the French governor-general of Algeria, in a deliberate plan to bring down the French government, the putsch led to the return to power of Charles de Gaulle, the collapse of the Fourth Republic, and, after four more years of anguish and prolific bloodshed, the end of the colonial war that France had ... (read more)

2012 Calibre Prize (runner up): 'Now They've Gone' by Colin Nettelbeck

November 2012, no. 346 24 October 2012
An imperfectly remembered life is a useless treachery. Barbara Kingsolver, The Lacuna When my American mother-in-law died, the world financial markets went into a tail-spin. Melba was her name; her own mother, who migrated from Italy to New England in the late nineteenth century, was an operamane. I have often wondered about the flukey events that had me, a native of Helen Mitchell’s no-place-l ... (read more)

Colin Nettelbeck reviews 'The Patagonian Hare: A memoir' by Claude Lanzmann

October 2012, no. 345 25 September 2012
As the maker of the nine-and-a-half hour film Shoah (1985), Claude Lanzmann created a work of major and enduring historical importance. Through its electrifyingly tense interviews with victims and perpetrators, it opens an indispensable, if harrowing, dimension to our understanding of Hitler’s Final Solution. A work that unrelentingly has as its subject death rather than survival, it will always ... (read more)

Colin Nettelbeck reviews 'The Tennis Courts of Lyon' by Richard Travers

May 2012, no. 341 23 April 2012
Practitioners of real (or royal) tennis have with their game the special relationship that comes with being a small group of initiates. There are probably fewer than ten thousand of them in the world, gathered in the four countries where the ancient sport survives on no more than fifty active courts. Individually and collectively, they appear to feel, beyond the passion with which they master the ... (read more)

Colin Nettelbeck reviews '"The Useless Mouths" and Other Literary Writings' by Simone de Beauvoir, edited by Margaret A. Simons and Marybeth Timmermann

March 2012, no. 339 01 March 2012
Let the potential reader be warned from the outset: the editorial perspective of this anthology of Simone de Beauvoir’s literary writings is disturbingly unsettled. If the intended audience is the ‘Beauvoir scholars’ alluded to in the jacket blurb, one cannot but imagine their irritation at the scores of quasi-Wikipedic notes covering almost every person mentioned in the text, and providing ... (read more)

Colin Nettelbeck reviews 'No Regrets: The Life of Edith Piaf' by Carolyn Burke

September 2011, no. 334 23 August 2011
In the autumn of 1962, as a student in Paris, I went to watch Edith Piaf perform atop the Eiffel Tower. My memory is of being in a thick crowd at ground level, straining to see a tiny floodlit figure while a huge metallic voice resounded across the night sky: ‘Non, je ne regrette rien …’ In this new biography of Piaf, Carolyn Burke reminds us that this was a publicity event for the launch of ... (read more)

Colin Nettelbeck reviews 'Typhus' and 'Critical Essays' by Jean-Paul Sartre, translated by Chris Turner

May 2011, no. 331 21 April 2011
Those wanting to understand better the radical changes in Western thought and social mores since World War II could benefit from revisiting Jean-Paul Sartre (1905–80). Of course, one can sympathise with Jonathan Rée in his critique of much of Sartre’s work as ‘slap-dash’, ‘long-winded’, ‘carelessly profuse’ (Times Literary Supplement, 26 November 2010). It is true that by the time ... (read more)
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