by Alex Miller
Allen & Unwin, $29.99 pb, 280 pp
When Alex Miller first thought of writing about Max Blatt, he imagined a celebration of his life. But would Max have wanted that? He was a melancholy, chainsmoking European migrant, quiet and self-effacing, who claimed nothing for himself except defeat and futility.
Max died in 1981, but for many years he was Miller’s mentor, inspiration, and best friend. As a fledgling writer, Miller looked up to the older man for advice, criticism, and confidence. His first published short story was based on a wartime incident in Max’s life. Later, as an acclaimed novelist, Miller often spoke of Max, in interviews with myself and others, imitating his friend’s slow raspy voice and eyes narrowed against cigarette smoke. Max turns up in his writing in various guises, notably the character Martin in his autobiographical novel The Passage of Love (2017).