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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Robin Gerster

Robin Gerster

Robin Gerster is Professor in the School of Languages, Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics at Monash University, and is the author of several books and numerous scholarly articles. His major publications include the cultural study of the Occupation of Japan, Travels in Atomic Sunshine (2008), the travel book Legless in Ginza (1999) and the critique of Australian war writing Big-noting (1987), along with the critical anthology of Australian travel writing, Hotel Asia (1995). Presently, he is working with Prof Melissa Miles (also of Monash) on a cultural history of Australia-Japan relations through the medium of photography.

Published in October 2018, no. 405

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