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

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.

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Published in August 2016, no. 383

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