Shirley Hazzard: New Critical Essays
Sydney University Press, $30 pb, 164 pp, 9781743324103
Shirley Hazzard is probably the most elegantly polished writer in the Australian canon: her novels and stories use traditional structures with great assurance, she writes from a thoughtful moral position, she is outspokenly engaged with the fine and the less fine elements of the Australia she once lived in, and she can be dry and funny. She spent most of her life in New York and Italy. This reminds us of the mobility of many Australians: the postwar travellers and expatriates, largely suburban and anonymous, but in some cases culturally transformative. Germaine Greer and Clive James are obvious examples. The lack of substantial critical response to her writing is surprising. Shirley Hazzard: New Critical Essays, edited by Brigitta Olubas and published in SUP’s Sydney Studies in Australian Literature series, is a corrective to this: a vibrant gathering of critics, discussing Hazzard’s writing with infectious engagement. This book is a great professional achievement for the publisher at a time when we need to consolidate our understanding of established writers, who risk slipping from critical view as we attend to the new.