Robin Gerster reviews 'Our Man Elsewhere: In search of Alan Moorehead' by Thornton McCamish

Robin Gerster reviews 'Our Man Elsewhere: In search of Alan Moorehead' by Thornton McCamish

Our Man Elsewhere: In search of Alan Moorehead

by Thornton McCamish

Black Inc., $39.99 hb, 324 pp, 9781863958271

You have to admire the professional writer who describes the chore of churning out the daily ration of words as 'like straining shit through a sock', though this may not have been the quotation for which Alan Moorehead would have chosen to be remembered. At the time he was Australia's most internationally celebrated writer, known for both his apparently effortless prose and the range of his subject matter, from the battlefields of World War II to the great age of European exploration in Africa. He was a cosmopolitan travel addict, the trailblazer of what was to become a golden generation of Australian expatriates (the sock simile was told to a young Robert Hughes at Moorehead's villa at the Tuscan seaside town Porto Ercole). The man of the 'great elsewhere' in Thornton McCamish's bold new biography, Moorehead had rejected the stultifying mediocrity of 'nowhere' (Melbourne) for 'somewhere' (Europe), along the way affecting an English accent that hid his origins. But it seems that he couldn't escape Australia and its idioms after all.

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Robin Gerster

Robin Gerster

Robin Gerster is Professor in the School of Languages, Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics at Monash University. He is the author of Big-noting: The Heroic Theme in Australian War Writing (1987) and several other books, including Travels in Atomic Sunshine: Australia and the Occupation of Japan (2008). His latest work (co-written with Melissa Miles) is Pacific Exposures: Photography and the Australia-Japan Relationship (2018).

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