In June 2019, Australian Book Review announced the ABR Behrouz Boochani Fellowship, an initiative generously funded by Peter McMullin in association with the Peter McMullin Centre on Statelessness (University of Melbourne). This initiative was not only created to highlight issues pertaining to displacement and exile, but also as an important act of naming in the face of a border regime designed to strip human beings of their personal identities and dignity. Behrouz’s work has meticulously illustrated how Australia’s border politics drives people into submission and insanity by systematically erasing their names.

The act of naming and of erasure has far-reaching, multidimensional impacts, and is often part of dynamic collective processes. Acknowledgment and support by ABR can be better understood in relation to Behrouz’s oeuvre of critical writing and creative resistance, and also in the context of the awards he has received in Australia and internationally. In order to appreciate the different functions and dimensions associated with this new Fellowship, it is helpful to consider aspects of the organised transnational strategy Behrouz has been developing in association with various collaborators and confidants.

In 2018 Behrouz Boochani won the Anna Politkovskaya Award for Journalism. The award, announced in Ferrara, Italy, was organised by Internazionale magazine. This was a significant moment for a number of reasons. The award was established in 2009 to acknowledge and support the courageous work of distinguished reporters struggling for justice and truth-telling. Named in honour of the Russian investigative journalist who was brutally killed in 2006, the award is a testament to the brave and unrelenting contributions made by many journalists the world over. The Anna Politkovskaya Award is a way of encouraging more critical journalism and opening spaces for radically new and innovative forms of reporting. The very name of the award has both political and epistemic consequences; the award makes a historical statement and helps shape the future of journalism. It also works to incorporate cultures of resistance into the social imaginary. By winning the 2018 Anna Politkovskaya Award, Behrouz has established himself as a significant global actor in the history of reporting.

Omid Tofighian holding No Friend But The Mountains by Behrouz Boochani (photograph by Hannah Koelmeyer)On winning the 2019 Victorian Prize for Literature, Behrouz engraved his name into Australia’s collective consciousness. His influence and example continue to reverberate throughout journalistic, literary, artistic, academic, and political circles around the world. The Wheeler Centre, which administers the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards, decided to celebrate humanity and creativity rather than observe rigid rules. In deeming No Friend But the Mountains eligible, the Centre recognised the symbolic importance of establishing Behrouz’s name by disrupting standard bureaucracy and procedure. Other Australian awards have since followed suit.

A particular meaning-making and meaning-sharing activity takes place when a name either initiates a tradition or becomes an iconic part of a tradition. With the creation of the ABR Behrouz Boochani Fellowship, Behrouz’s name now represents both. Nonetheless, more needs to be said about the affirmation and empowerment associated with naming and how it can transcend institutions, operational networks of power, and bordering practices. 

Behrouz’s name is an indispensable element of the intellectual and creative challenge against the colonial imaginary conditioning Australia’s border regime and detention industry. Dismantling the material conditions, political representation and policies is a matter of great urgency, but this must be coupled with a transformation of the epistemic and symbolic aesthetic. Behrouz is a political actor in the fight against border violence, but he is also an artist and intellectual. The two are necessary parts of his identity and his embodied experience in what he has named Manus Prison. No Friend But the Mountains produces a new language for knowing and fighting border violence and colonialism, and his method and vision involves radically new acts of naming. Understanding this factor, I tried to embody the same philosophical and political approach in the English translation.

The Anna Politkovskaya Award was Behrouz’s first major international prize. It represented a form of recognition and appreciation he had not experienced in Australia. I was privileged to accept the award on Behrouz’s behalf. It was surreal – and a tragedy – that he could not be there to accept it himself. I also worked closely with the Internazionale a Ferrara Festival – in particular Luisa Ciffolilli, Junko Tereo, and Marina Lalovic – to organise activities and to establish networks. With their profound understanding of the significance of Behrouz’s writing and resistance, they represented a vision that included politics, art, and community. This was clear in the way they integrated Behrouz’s journalism, No Friend But the Mountains, and the film Chauka, Please Tell Us the Time into their programming. (The Italian translation of No Friend But the Mountains will be published later this year by Add Editore; there is already great interest in the book in Italy due to the award and festival.)

Omid Tofighian accepting Behrouz Boochani's Anna Politkovskaya Award at the Internazionale a Ferrara 2018 (photograph supplied)Omid Tofighian accepting Behrouz Boochani's Anna Politkovskaya Award at the Internazionale a Ferrara Festival 2018 (photograph supplied)

A significant number of Australian citizens are offended by the idea of removing colonial icons. They occupy digital spaces in an effort to erase or justify historical injustices. Political leaders continue to invest in celebrations of colonial glory in public spaces and further ingrain coloniality into their fabrication of Australian identity and values. In opposition, the act of naming can function as a form of resistance and has potential to disrupt and reclaim digital and public spaces. Behrouz Boochani is one of the many names that needs to reverberate in intellectual, educational, and artistic spaces, in addition to his role as a political and human rights activist.

Understood as part of other traditions of resistance, the ABR Behrouz Boochani Fellowship helps to galvanise a wider collective process. It has unlimited potential to initiate other projects and actions. The Fellowship – based on consultation, collaboration, and sharing – can be leveraged in empowering ways. An addition to the shared philosophical activity I discuss in my translator’s note, it is another call to action.

Part of a larger movement, this act of naming by ABR helps to form broader alliances and to invite the creation of more radical initiatives in future.

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Monday, 25 February 2019 11:02

'Flight from Manus' by Behrouz Boochani

I am beholding clouds
beholding dreams
… beholding the hands of a woman
… she has taken a fragment of me with her
Exactly like the force of a fork
carving out a piece of cake

I muse on those hands
that seem to have bathed within jungles
submerged into oceans
touched herrings

Hands covered with the dirt and sand of deserted plains
Hands soaked with dreams
Your hands
Your arms

If I were you, beholding me
I would fly
I would fly from one cloud to another cloud
from one tree to another tree
from one lake to another lake
from one mountain range to another mountain range
and from one city to another city

Fly over the valleys
fly over the expanse of the oceans
fly over the immensity of the deserts
If I were you, beholding me
I would fly from one river to another river

If I were you, beholding me
I would even send my kisses into flight
… from the lips of a woman
… sweet savour
… to the lips of a man
… sense him like salt

And this is who I am
living in wonderful solitude
and imagining the kiss from those lips
… lips that are overflowing with emotion
… overflowing without cause or reason

If I were you, beholding me
I would fly from one island to another island

Behrouz Boochani
Translation by Omid Tofighian, American University in Cairo/University of Sydney.

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    I am beholding clouds
    beholding dreams
    … beholding the hands of a woman
    … she has taken a fragment of me with her
    Exactly like the force of a fork
    carving out a piece of cake

Friday, 22 February 2019 15:00

News from the Editor's Desk - March 2019

News from the Editors Desk

Fellowship Twenty

Felicity Plunkett Felicity Plunkett Felicity Plunkett is the 2019 ABR Patrons’ Fellow. This Fellowship is worth $10,000. Felicity will contribute a number of articles and review essays over the course of the next year.

A frequent contributor to the magazine since 2010 and a past Fellow (2015), Felicity Plunkett – poet, critic, teacher, editor – was chosen from a large field, and here we thank everyone who applied in this round. We especially thank the ABR Patrons who make this program – and so much else – possible.

We look forward to advertising the twenty-first Fellowship – the ABR Indigenous Fellowship – shortly.

Read the media release about this announcement here: ABR Media Release

Behrouz Boochani

Behrouz Boochani FXB342840 Hi resBehrouz Boochani from Iran, on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea, on Tuesday 11 April, 2017 (photograph by Alex Ellinghausen © Fairfax Media, MEAA)

Though often convivial, not all awards ceremonies are stirring, but the 2019 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards – held at the MPavilion on January 31 – was very different. Behrouz Boochani’s extraordinary book No Friend But the Mountains (published by Picador, translated by Omid Tofighian) was named the Victorian Prize for Literature, having already won the Prize for NonFiction. Boochani, who remains on Manus Island where he has been incarcerated since 2013, recorded a video message and then spoke live to the audience via an iPhone. He spoke with great dignity and feeling.

Congratulations to the organisers and the Victorian government for not excluding Behrouz Boochani from these prizes, which – on this occasion – transcended the merely festive and monetary. (Boochani had earlier been excluded from the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards because he is neither an Australian citizen nor a permanent resident.)

At the ceremony, Omid Tofighian read a new poem by Behrouz Boochani (again, translated by Tofighian), which we are thrilled to publish in the March issue.

Felicity Plunkett reviewed No Friend But the Mountains in the October 2018 issue.

Peter Porter Poetry Prize Shortlist

Peter PorterPeter Porter

This year’s judges – Judith Bishop, John Hawke, Paul Kane – have shortlisted five poems in the Peter Porter Poetry Prize, which is worth a total of $8,500. The poets are John Foulcher (ACT), Ross Gillett (Victoria), Andy Kissane (NSW), Belle Ling (Queensland/Hong Kong), and Mark Tredinnick (NSW). The poems commence on page 39.

This year’s Porter Prize ceremony will be held at fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, on Monday, March 18 (6 pm). Reservations are essential for this free event: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. After readings from the work of Peter Porter, the shortlisted poets will introduce and read their poems. Then a special guest will name the overall winner, who will receive $5,000.

MWF on the move

The Melbourne Writers’ Festival (first presented in 1986) was based at the Malthouse Theatre from 1990 to 2008. Many people with fond memories of those congenial auditoria and the main foyer – always packed with authors and publishers and readers – have been hoping that MWF would find a more gemütlich home than Federation Square.

Happily, this year MWF will move to the State Library of Victoria (SLV), that dynamic cultural complex in the heart of town. The creation of new public spaces as part of SLV’s $88 million Vision 2020 redevelopment will make it possible for the Library and adjacent venues to accommodate a festival with this popular writers’ festival.

SLV CEO Kate Torney commented: ‘The Library is thrilled to be partnering with MWF to become the new home of Australia’s favourite literary festival. The partnership will bring new audiences to our magnificent Library, which is being transformed to meet the changing needs of our visitors.’

The Festival will run from August 30 to September 9.

Calibres galore

When the Calibre Essay Prize closed in mid-January, there were more than 450 entries – far more than in previous years. That’s almost two million words of essayism. Judging is underway but will take longer than expected. Hence, the winning essay will appear in the May issue – not April.

Hearty thanks to everyone who entered the Calibre Prize.

2019 Stella Prize Longlist

The 2019 Stella Prize longlist features books by twelve women, from a variety of publishers. Allen & Unwin figures prominently, with Eggshell Skull by Bri Lee, Little Gods by Jenny Ackland, and Bluebottle by Belinda Castles. Three-year-old publisher Brow Books is favoured too, with Pink Mountain on Locust Island by Jamie Marina Lau and Axiomatic by Maria Tumarkin. Axiomatic has already won the 2018 Melbourne Prize for Literature Best Writing Award and was shortlisted for the 2019 Victorian Premiers’ Literary Award.

The other longlisted titles are Stephanie Bishop’s Man Out of Time (Hachette), Enza Gandolfo’s The Bridge (Scribe), Chloe Hooper’s The Arsonist (Penguin Random House), Gail Jones’s The Death of Noah Glass (Text Publishing), Melissa Lucashenko’s Too Much Lip (University of Queensland Press), and The Erratics by Vicki Laveau-Harvie (Finch Publishing).

The winner will be named at a ceremony in Melbourne on April 9.

Melbourne University Publishing


Melbourne University Press – under the leadership of Louise Adler – has an unrivalled capacity to generate publicity. The University of Melbourne’s decision to (in the words of new Vice-Chancellor Duncan Maskell) ‘refocus MUP and a high-quality scholarly press’ and to reduce its commercial publishing led to a lot of lively debate. In response to the changes, Ms Adler (CEO since 2003) resigned, as did five board members, including Bob Carr and Gillian Triggs. There has been much commentary, some of it indignant and partisan.

Writing for Australian Book Review, Dominic Kelly – political historian and commentator – approaches the controversy from a different angle. His article aims to fill in some of the gaps in the recent coverage and to provoke a broader discussion of the role and purpose of university presses within the Australian publishing industry. Dr Kelly voices the frustrations of many academics about the direction of MUP and the quality of its titles over the past decade. He also seeks to correct the view propagated by a number of journalists and commentators that criticism of MUP from within academia is motivated by snobbery.

To read Dominic Kelly's commentary, click here

Vale Andrew McGahan

Andrew McGahan (photograph via Allen & Unwin)Andrew McGahan (photograph via Allen & Unwin)ABR was saddened by the recent death of author Andrew McGahan from pancreatic cancer in February aged fifty-two. McGahan was the author of six novels including the Vogel-winning Praise (1992), Wonders of a Godless World (2009), and The White Earth (2004) which won the 2005 Miles Franklin Award. McGahan was also the author of four young adult novels in the Ship Kings series including Ship Kings (2013) and The Coming of the Whirlpool (2011)

James Bradley reviewed The White Earth for ABR, describing it as ‘possessed of a resonance and symbolic complexity that exceeds anything he has done before’. His review was republished in the January-February 2019 issue as our From the Archive feature. In a statement on the Allen and Unwin website, publisher Annette Barlow said ‘I know that Australia’s literary community and readers will join me in mourning the loss of Andrew. I will remember him for his fierce and intense intelligence, his kindness and generosity, his fascination with the natural world and his bravery in facing his diagnosis. He truly was the best of men.’  

Allen and Unwin will publish McGahan’s final, posthumous novel The Rich Man’s House in September 2019.

Newcastle Writers Festival

The 2019 Newcastle Writers Festival runs from 5–7 April, and the full program is now available. Guests include Heather Morris, author of the bestselling The Tattooist of Auschwitz; acclaimed journalist and author Clementine Ford, who will discuss her recent work Boys Will Be Boys; and the award-winning Australian artist Ben Quilty. The festival will also feature a series of writing workshops and masterclasses, book launches, literary trivia, and much more.

For more information on the Newcastle Writers Festival, visit their website.

Daisy Utemorrah Award

In this prize-happy country, some of the worthiest (if not most lucrative) literary awards are for unpublished manuscripts. There is a new one from Magabala Books: the Daisy Utemorrah Award for an outstanding fiction manuscript in the junior and Young Adult categories (including graphic novels). It honours the late Ngarinyin Wunambal elder and author Daisy Utemorrah. Entrants must be Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander persons. The winner will receive $15,000 and, better still, a publishing contract with Magabala Books. Applications close on April 30.

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    ABR News: Felicity Plunkett named the ABR Patrons' Fellow 2019; a new poem by Behrouz Boochani; the Peter Porter Poetry Prize shortlist announced; the Melbourne Writers' Festival moves; Calibres galore; the 2019 Stella Prize shortlist announced; the Melbourne University Publishing furore; and more ...

Behrouz Boochani describes being smashed into the sea by the boulder-like weight of an overpacked, splintering boat transporting asylum seekers from Indonesia to Australia. The wreck’s ‘slashed carcass’ gashes the flailing survivors and the bodies of those who have died, and Boochani settles under a wave, finding refuge ‘by imagining myself elsewhere’. Finding the strength to surface, he sees a group of men clinging to a wooden spar torn from the battered boat. Its spikes lacerate Boochani’s legs as he sinks and surfaces amid violent waves. A British boat approaches: ‘our gruelling odyssey has come to an end’. Having faced death in those underwater moments, Boochani reflects that ‘even a brush with mortality gives life a marvellous sense of meaning’.

If it were a piece of fiction, this intense account of being rescued would settle after its zenith. The writing recalls other stories of refugees’ sea journeys to Australia, such as Nam Le’s celebrated 'The Boat'. But Boochani’s work is not fiction, and respite is illusory.

It is July 2013, days before the Kurdish poet and journalist’s thirtieth birthday and days after the second Rudd government’s announcement of measures to reinforce its borders by turning back asylum seekers arriving by boat. After a month on Christmas Island – CCTV cameras in the toilets, strip searches, and the issuing of ludicrously ill-fitting polyester clothing – Boochani is transferred to Manus Island, one of the offshore immigration detention centres originally set up by the Howard government in 2001.

Boochani, whose educational background includes a postgraduate degree in political science, political geography, and geopolitics, began to record his experiences of what he names Manus Prison. The word expresses the loss of asylum seekers’ freedom and highlights a dark irony: a prison legally holds prisoners as punishment for a crime or while awaiting trial. Given that Australia is a signatory to the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, with its principle of non-refoulement – which guarantees protection to refugees who have reason to fear persecution should they return to a particular country – the question of legality is important here. Several arms of the United Nations have condemned Australia’s policy of offshore processing.

No Friend But the Mountains is a work of witness. Richard Flanagan, in his foreword, acknowledges the ‘near impossibility of its existence’. Written in Farsi, amid the traumatic deprivation it evokes, the narrative was sent as text messages to refugee advocate and translator Moones Mansoubi, who formatted the material and sent it to Sydney University academic Omid Tofighian. Others involved include Janet Galbraith, founder of Writing Through Fences, an organisation devoted to enabling the writing of refugees, and Sajad Kabgani, a PhD student who worked with Tofighian and Mansoubi to produce the translation. Arnold Zable provided feedback and encouragement.

In its steady witness, No Friend But the Mountains recalls accounts of the Shoah such as Primo Levi’s If This Is a Man (1947), which Philip Roth described as motivated by the need ‘systematically to remember the German hell on earth, steadfastly to think it through, and then to render it comprehensible in lucid, unpretentious prose’. Levi, who describes a dream of relating his experiences of Auschwitz with no one is listening, is driven by the need to ‘bear witness’, conscious of the words of a guard who taunts prisoners that if they were to survive, their testimony would soon be considered ‘too monstrous to be believed’. Boochani, too, writes against forgetting. In his case, though, bearing witness to history abuts a project of informing the world beyond Manus Island of what is happening there now. This extends Boochani’s work as a journalist.

AK Brand ABR 600x200

The work transcends memoir, especially because Boochani is often self-effacing. The blaze and flicker of his self-assessment limns a more empathetic project through which he examines larger questions of the nature of human behaviour and the search for an adequate way to name and anatomise the cruel experiment that is offshore detention.

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In this sense, Boochani’s work recalls psychiatrist Viktor E. Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning (1946). At once an account of Frankl’s experience of concentration camps and the foundational expression of his psychotherapeutic method, logotherapy, Man’s Search for Meaning argues that human suffering, while unavoidable, might be endured best by having some focus beyond it, by having a sense of meaning. ‘Those who have a “why” to live,’ Frankl wrote, ‘can bear with almost any “how”.’ For Frankl, the salvation of humanity is ‘in love and through love’.

Boochani’s project shares this kind of philosophical enquiry. In his translator’s note, Tofighian strives to illuminate the book’s various generic elements to frame its reading. Supplementary transcripts of discussions between Boochani and his interlocutors continue this. Of these, the use of the term ‘kyriarchy’, first used by feminist theologian Elisabeth Schlüssler Fiorenza to describe enmeshed social systems of domination and oppression, is a key aspect of Boochani’s project.

Behrouz Boochani (photo by Hoda Afshar)Behrouz Boochani (photo by Hoda Afshar)Prose is interspersed with ribbons of poetry. These lyrical slivers are drifting and meditative, though they enclose moments of trauma as well as respite. For Boochani, as for many vastly more privileged poets, isolation and silence are treasured. He writes of longing ‘to isolate myself and create that which is poetic and visionary’. In the intensely hot, crowded spaces of the centre, he asserts his indomitable imaginative freedom: ‘the mind still has the power to leave the prison and imagine the coolness under the shade of a bunch of trees on the other side of the fence’.

Boochani is a prodigiously gifted poet and prose stylist. There are few false notes. When he describes the bodies of female lawyers visiting the complex, what may sound like objectification underscores the inhumanity of secluding people from the liberty to love. His fleeting allusion to past loves highlights the barbarity of five years of isolation.

Like No Friend But the Mountains, the chapbook of poems Truth in the Cage by Mohammad Ali Maleki has been produced with the help of Australian supporters. Their translator is fellow detainee Mansour Shoushtari, whose interview by Boochani was published in the Guardian. Boochani writes that Shoushtari ‘projects beauty, he projects tenderness, he projects kindness’.

Mohammad Ali Maleki with a rainbow lorikeet in his graden on manus island. (Photo via Rochford Street Review)Mohammad Ali Maleki with a rainbow lorikeet in his graden on Manus Island. (Photo via Rochford Street Review)Maleki tends a garden on Manus Island, yet his poems evoke images of the natural world thwarted or gone awry – ‘the autumn leaf grows green’, ‘the moon implodes’, ‘the butterfly flies back to its cocoon’. In an allegory of refoulement, everything in ‘Silence Land’ is turned back: the tree to its seed, the sea to its source, the river to its spring. In the more surreal ‘Myself’, groans swell the sky, the sea becomes stormy and fish ‘[scatter] in fear’.

The book’s first poem, ‘Dream of Death’, begins by addressing readers as ‘my dears’, and implores: ‘please, I ask you, listen’. Both Boochani and Maleki evoke the experience of there being absolutely nothing to do and the impact this has on the mind. Each writer has endured this year after year.

Although Maleki writes of blankness and weariness, in ‘Where is My Name?’, he affirms ‘I won’t neglect to report on these days’. From the ‘cursed city’ of Manus, he writes tender works of witness and consolation commemorating others people’s deaths – Hamed Shamshiripour, who died by hanging, and Aylan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian asylum seeker whose body was washed up on a Turkish beach. Yet for all their gentleness, these are steely poems, refusing silence and namelessness.

Boochani interrogates his history of ‘non-violent resistance’, of choosing the pen over fighting, but these important books offer ways forward that violence in response to violence is unable to do. And each recalls Paul Celan’s courageous insistence on literature as resilience: ‘Only one thing remained reachable, close and secure amid all losses: language. Yes, language. In spite of everything, it remained secure against loss.’

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    Behrouz Boochani describes being smashed into the sea by the boulder-like weight of an overpacked, splintering boat transporting asylum seekers from Indonesia to Australia. The wreck’s ‘slashed carcass’ gashes the flailing survivors and the bodies of those who have died, and Boochani settles under a wave ...

  • Book Title No Friend But the Mountains
  • Book Author Behrouz Boochani
  • Book Subtitle Writing from Manus Prison
  • Author Type Author
  • Biblio Picador, $32.99 pb, 400 pp, 9781760555382
Monday, 25 March 2019 11:52

Letters to the Editor - April 2019

ABR welcomes succinct letters and website comments. Time and space permitting, we will print any reply from the reviewer with the original letter or comment. If you're interested in writing to ABR, contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Correspondents must provide a telephone number or email address for verification.

Putin’s preference

Dear Editor,

Trigger WarningsI enjoyed this review. I would have liked Jeff Sparrow and Russell Blackford, the reviewer of Sparrow’s interesting book Trigger Warnings, to have explored the question of why the Russian political mainstream (that overwhelmingly supports Putin’s elected presidency of Russia) feels more comfortable with the American republican pro-Trump blue-collar right than with the anti-Trump Democrat middle-class liberal left. A viewing of Stephen Colbert’s sarcastic and condescending interview with Oliver Stone on Stone’s ‘Putin Interviews’ television series, when Colbert literally sooled a mocking studio audience onto Stone, will give clues – as will any of Rachel Maddow’s many malevolent diatribes on TV against Russia.

Tony Kevin, Gordon, ACT

Australia on his mind

Dear Editor,

Congratulations to Text Publishing for adding D.H. Lawrence’s Kangaroo to its Classics series of iconic Australian books. It reprints the original Martin Secker edition of 1923: apparently, the definitive Cambridge text was unavailable. There is a new introduction by Nicolas Rothwell. He celebrates the novel for its unprecedented insight into the appearance and atmosphere of the Australian landscape, an achievement too often overlooked. There are, however, two other issues.

Rothwell says: ‘Australia was a way-stage for the Lawrences on their long round-the-world journey, nothing more: the destination of the first ship they could find leaving Colombo port.’ However, on the ship from Italy, Lawrence had written, ‘If we don’t want to go on living in Ceylon I shall go to Australia if we can manage it.’ In subsequent letters he confirmed this, using the words ‘probably’ and ‘shall’. In his book D.H. Lawrence’s Australia, David Game meticulously documents Lawrence’s strong interest in the country, which went back to 1907. Australia was very much on his mind.

Rothwell addresses the issue of Lawrence’s knowledge of the existing political background, but cites only Robert Darroch. There certainly were similarities between actual organisations and events in New South Wales and those in Kangaroo, but from them Darroch built an edifice of speculation that the major Australian characters were based on real persons whom Lawrence had encountered. Darroch’s earliest book was the first to appear on the subject, and has been accepted in many quarters as authoritative, overshadowing Joseph Davis’s subsequent D.H. Lawrence at Thirroul. Davis states that one must be ‘extremely cautious’ in considering Lawrence’s possible sources, which ‘mount at an exponential rate’. He mentions several possibilities, concluding that they remain a mystery.

John Lowe, Ormond, Vic.

Behrouz Boochani

Both comments below are in response to Behrouz Boochani's poem 'Flight from Manus', published in the March issue of Australian Book Review. 


Dear Editor,

This man makes music with words, a symphony from the heart.

Clythe Greenwood (online comment)


Dear Editor,

This is beautiful. Says so much. Omid Tofighian’s translation makes it ring too. Thank you, both of you.

Jo van Kool (online comment)

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    Letters to the Editor: Tony Kevin from Gordon writes on Jeff Sparrow's Trigger Warnings; John Lowe from Ormond on D. H. Lawrence; and some comments on Behrouz Boochani and his poem 'Flight from Manus' ...

Wednesday, 24 April 2019 10:40

Letters to the Editor - May 2019

ABR welcomes succinct letters and website comments. Time and space permitting, we will print any reply from the reviewer with the original letter or comment. If you're interested in writing to ABR, contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Correspondents must provide a telephone number or email address for verification.

Open Letter in support of Behrouz Boochani

Refugee Behrouz Boochani from Iran, on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea, on Tuesday 11 April, 2017. (Photograph by Alex Ellinghausen. © Fairfax Media, MEAA)Refugee Behrouz Boochani from Iran, on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea, on Tuesday 11 April, 2017. (Photograph by Alex Ellinghausen. © Fairfax Media, MEAA)

Dear Editor,

We, the undersigned, write this letter as Australian journalists, writers, editors, publishers, and lovers of literature, to call for our colleague and fellow award-winning journalist and author Behrouz Boochani to be allowed to enter Australia.

Boochani, aged thirty-six, is a Kurdish writer, journalist, and film-maker. He fled Iran in early 2013 following a campaign of persecution and harassment, and attempted to seek asylum in Australia. He has been imprisoned on Manus Island since August 2013.

In the six years that the Australian authorities have detained him, Boochani has courageously continued to work, writing for publications in Australia and overseas, tirelessly reporting on the conditions on Manus Island, while also helping Australian-based journalists cover the situation there.

In December 2017, the International Federation of Journalists recognised Boochani’s work as a legitimate journalist and granted him an IFJ press card. Australian journalists are acutely aware that his continued detention undermines Australia’s credibility as a leader for press freedom across the region.

Boochani is undeniably talented. In 2017, he co-directed a film that he shot on mobile phone, titled Chauka, Please Tell Us The Time, which was selected for screening at numerous film festivals. His book published in July 2018, No Friend But the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison (Picador), is an extraordinary account of his experience of the Manus Island offshore detention system. It has been highly acclaimed by critics; in January 2019 it won two of Australia’s most prestigious prizes at the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards.

We are deeply concerned for Behrouz Boochani’s welfare and safety. The success of his book and his status as a journalist have made him a target of the Manus authorities, a danger that has only increased with his rising profile.

As Australian journalists, writers, academics, and readers, we extend a welcome to Behrouz Boochani. We regard him as a valuable member of the contemporary Australian literary community. He had the courage to stand up for the rights of his people in Iran, and in the past six years, he has borne witness to the trials of his fellow-detainees, and advocated for their freedom on Manus Island. We join with him in advocating for justice for all those detained on Manus.

We call on the Australian government to allow Behrouz Boochani into our country, where he can continue to work safely as a journalist and writer. We also urge that he be offered a pathway to permanent residency. We will all be enriched by this.

Dennis Altman, James Bradley, J.M. Coetzee, Patricia Cornelius, Michelle de Kretser, Delia Falconer, Mem Fox, Anna Funder, Helen Garner, Kate Grenville, Peter Greste, Michael Heyward, Matilda Imlah, Caroline Jones, Mireille Juchau, Tom Kenneally, Kathy Lette, Kim Mahood, David Marr, Phillipa McGuinness, Alex Miller, Kerry O’Brien, Felicity Plunkett, Peter Rose, Kim Scott, Beejay Silcox, Peter Singer, Christos Tsiolkas, Geordie Williamson,Tim Winton, Charlotte Wood, Alexis Wright, Clare Wright, Arnold Zable

As we went to press more than 8,800 Australians had signed this letter. A full list of the signatories may be found at the MEAA website:


Married At First Sight

Dear Editor,

I loved Alecia Simmond’s article on Married At First Sight (‘Forced Marriage: MAFS and Reality Television’s Chamber of Horrors’, ABR, April 2019). Words fail me about the recklessness shown by the producers and ‘experts’ delivering the content of this television show.

As a gay man, I finally gained the legal right to marry my partner of nineteen years in 2018. When I see how some members of the heterosexual community treat their right to marry and to celebrate marriage, it makes me angry and upset. The marriage equality campaign was timely – a fitting demonstration of what love should be about and the right of celebration. This program just kicks that hard work and commitment in the guts.

Roger Levi (online comment)

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    Letters to the Editor: Arnold Zable et al. sign an open letter of support for the release of Behrouz Boochani; Roger Levi on Alecia Simmond's article on the horrors of Married At First Sight ...

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