Another country

A bravura act of biographical recovery
by
July 2021, no. 433
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The Brilliant Boy: Doc Evatt and the great Australian dissent by Gideon Haigh

Scribner, $39.99, hb, 384 pp

Another country

A bravura act of biographical recovery
by
July 2021, no. 433

To write of Herbert Vere Evatt (1894–1965) is to venture into a land where opinions are rarely held tentatively. While many aspects of his career have been controversial, his actions during the famous Split of 1955 arouse the most passionate criticism. Evatt is attacked, not only on the political right but frequently from within the Labor Party itself, for his alleged role in causing the catastrophic rupture that kept Labor out of office until 1972.

Evatt is sometimes called ‘mad’, which, if true, would provide extenuating circumstances for poor judgement. Yet the accusation is not only questionable but normally advanced as if derangement were synonymous with venality. Evatt is also dismissed as a cunning opportunist, unburdened by principle. After one discussion with Evatt in the 1950s, Bob Santamaria told his wife that he had ‘encountered the impossible – a man without a soul’ (whatever that means).

Frank Bongiorno reviews 'The Brilliant Boy: Doc Evatt and the great Australian dissent' by Gideon Haigh

The Brilliant Boy: Doc Evatt and the great Australian dissent

by Gideon Haigh

Scribner, $39.99, hb, 384 pp

Buy this book

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