Robin Gerster reviews 'On War and Writing' by Samuel Hynes

Robin Gerster reviews 'On War and Writing' by Samuel Hynes

On War and Writing

by Samuel Hynes

University of Chicago Press (Footprint), $44.99 hb, 215 pp, 9780226468785

'Every man thinks meanly of himself for not having been a soldier.’ Samuel Johnson’s aphorism was commended to me many years ago by Peter Ryan, then the long-serving publisher at Melbourne University Press. The author of a superb personal account of his war experience in New Guinea, Fear Drive My Feet (1959), Ryan had just read a manuscript I had submitted to MUP. It was a critical and possibly excessively sarcastic account of the heroic theme in Australian war writing. My cynicism about the Anzac industry had a personal basis, Ryan seemed to be implying. Apparently I was driven by envy and self-loathing. Nevertheless, he published the manuscript, and in the book I shamelessly deployed the ever-quotable Johnson as an epigraph.

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Published in October 2018, no. 405
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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