Robin Gerster

Robin Gerster

Robin Gerster is an Adjunct Research 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 works, including Travels in Atomic Sunshine: Australia and the occupation of Japan (2008), and (with Melissa Miles) Pacific Exposures: Photography and the Australia–Japan relationship (ANU Press, 2018). His latest book is Hiroshima and Here: Reflections on Australian atomic culture (Lexington Books/Rowman and Littlefield, 2020).

Robin Gerster reviews 'Gallipoli: One Long Grave' by Kit Denton

May 1987, no. 90 01 May 1987
Robin Gerster reviews 'Gallipoli: One Long Grave' by Kit Denton
In a response to Peter Weir’s film Gallipoli published in Quadrant in 1982, Gerard Henderson observed that ‘recounting the story of the Anzacs has become something of a growth industry’. Five years on, the Gallipoli industry shows no sign of a downturn. The salvaging and publication of war diaries, letters and manuscripts that had long mouldered in museums, libraries and attics, the spate of ... (read more)

Robin Gerster reviews 'Australia and the Pacific: A history' by Ian Hoskins

November 2021, no. 437 25 October 2021
Robin Gerster reviews 'Australia and the Pacific: A history' by Ian Hoskins
Travel itineraries are significant in the world of diplomacy, as Ian Hoskins illustrates in this panoramic survey of Australia’s interactions with the Pacific. Gareth Evans, freshly installed as Australia’s foreign minister in 1988, made a point of visiting the South Pacific neighbourhood before paying his country’s traditional obeisance to Washington and the European capitals. Within a mont ... (read more)

Robin Gerster reviews 'Asian and Pacific Inscriptions: Identities, ethnicities, nationalities' edited by Suvendrini Perera

April 1996, no. 179 01 April 1996
Robin Gerster reviews 'Asian and Pacific Inscriptions: Identities, ethnicities, nationalities' edited by Suvendrini Perera
Once the scourge of the conservatives, some practitioners of cultural studies are starting to make the stuffed shirts of English Departments look like mad-eyed anarchists. Asian and Pacific Inscriptions, a special book issue of Meridian edited by the La Trobe University academic Suvendrini Perera, is a collection of theoretical considerations of cultural constructions of ethnic, national, and sex ... (read more)

Robin Gerster reviews 'The Hidden Culture: Folklore in Australian society' by Graham Seal

May 1989, no. 110 01 May 1989
Robin Gerster reviews 'The Hidden Culture: Folklore in Australian society' by Graham Seal
Graham Seal, author of this invaluable new survey of Australian folklore, hopes this book will ‘explode the pernicious and persistent myth that Australia has no folklore’, a cultural lie he illustrates on the opening page by trotting out a familiar scapegoat in the form of a visiting Englishman carping about the lack of folksong in this country. This seems to me to base the book on an unnecess ... (read more)

Robin Gerster reviews 'Highways to a War' by Christopher J. Koch

August 1995, no. 173 01 August 1995
Robin Gerster reviews 'Highways to a War' by Christopher J. Koch
Vietnam, of all the foreign conflicts in which Australians have been involved, most outgrew and out lived its military dimension. The ghosts of what Christopher J. Koch in this new novel calls ‘that long and bitter saga’ continue to haunt the lives (and the politics) of the generations of men and women who lived through it; the archetypal television war, it was as much a social melodrama as an ... (read more)

Robin Gerster reviews 'Postcolonial Heritage and Settler Well-Being: The historical fictions of Roger Mcdonald' by Christopher Lee

August 2019, no. 413 22 July 2019
Robin Gerster reviews 'Postcolonial Heritage and Settler Well-Being: The historical fictions of Roger Mcdonald' by Christopher Lee
Though he had already produced two volumes of poetry, Roger McDonald first came to popular attention with his spectacular début novel, 1915, published in 1979. A recreation of the Gallipoli Campaign from the points of view of two temperamentally different boyhood friends (thus anticipating Peter Weir’s movie Gallipoli, which appeared in 1981), 1915 stood out from the ruck of Australian World Wa ... (read more)

Robin Gerster reviews 'Past the Headlands' by Garry Disher

July 2001, no. 232 01 July 2001
Robin Gerster reviews 'Past the Headlands' by Garry Disher
Contemporary Australian fiction continues to lean on the national past. Perhaps that’s a comment on the present, or the future, for that matter. It seems to be not so much a matter of the past being experientially ‘another country’, but a more engaging version of the literal one. Edgy, experimental attempts to represent the here and now, and to foretell what may lie ahead, such as Bernard Co ... (read more)

Robin Gerster reviews 'The War Artist' by Simon Cleary

April 2019, no. 410 25 March 2019
Robin Gerster reviews 'The War Artist' by Simon Cleary
It’s virtually axiomatic: ‘war can fuck you up’. This pithy observation, made by a veteran in The War Artist, Simon Cleary’s new novel about the travails of an Australian soldier during and after a tour of Afghanistan, goes to the heart of what we now understand about the impact of battle and its psychological aftershocks. Before PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) became an identifiabl ... (read more)

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

October 2018, no. 405 26 September 2018
Robin Gerster reviews 'On War and Writing' by Samuel Hynes
'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 possibl ... (read more)

Robin Gerster reviews 'Việt Nam: A History from earliest times to the present' by Ben Kiernan

June-July 2017, no. 392 25 May 2017
Robin Gerster reviews 'Việt Nam: A History from earliest times to the present' by Ben Kiernan
‘Vietnam Vietnam Vietnam, we’ve all been there.’ The American reporter Michael Herr thus concluded his celebrated work Dispatches (1977), confident that his readers understood what he meant, even if most of them had never set foot in the country. The very word possessed an almost incantatory power. In the United States, as in Australia, opposition to the military intervention and its cross-f ... (read more)
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