Ian Donaldson reviews 'Hegel's Owl: The life of Bernard Smith' by Sheridan Palmer

Ian Donaldson reviews 'Hegel's Owl: The life of Bernard Smith' by Sheridan Palmer

Hegel's Owl: The life of Bernard Smith

by Sheridan Palmer

Power Publications, $39.99 pb, 424 pp, 9780994306425

Hoping to travel to Vienna in the summer of 1950 through a part of Austria then under Soviet control, Bernard Smith sought an interview in Prague with an officer of the Red Army. 'You are English?' asked the officer, glancing at his passport and visa. 'Australian,' said Smith. 'It is the same thing', replied the officer curtly. 'No,' came the measured response, 'not quite.' The officer was lucky perhaps to have been spared a longer disquisition on a subject that was to absorb Smith's attention throughout much of his intellectual life. Australians – Antipodeans, as he preferred to say – differed from those who lived in the north, as the images used to promote the famous exhibition of that name a few years later (designed by Charles Blackman, drawing wittily on the speculations of ancient mytho-graphers) were playfully to suggest. Their lands and oceans, moreover, as Smith was to argue in persuasive detail in the major work of his long career, European Vision and the South Pacific, 1768–1850 (1960), had prompted new ways of seeing and representing the world, first experienced on the great voyages of exploration into the Pacific in the late eighteenth century.

Read the rest of this article by subscribing to ABR Online for as little as $10 a month, or subscribe to the print edition to receive access to ABR Online free of charge.

If you are a single issue subscriber you will need to upgrade your subscription to view back issues.

If you are already subscribed, click here to log in.

Ian Donaldson

Ian Donaldson

Ian Donaldson is an Honorary Professorial Fellow in the School of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne. He is General Editor of The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Ben Jonson (2012), and author of Ben Jonson: A Life (2011). He was the Oxford theatre reviewer for The Guardian (London) for a decade.

Published in August 2016, no. 383

Leave a comment

Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.

NB: If you are an ABR Online subscriber or contributor, you will need to login to ABR Online in order to post a comment. If you have forgotten your login details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to comments@australianbookreview.com.au. We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.