Biography

‘It is hard to reach the truth of these islands,’ observed Robert Louis Stevenson of Samoa in a letter written to a close friend in 1892, two years after the author had moved to an estate on Upolu. Stevenson, who died in 1894, could never have anticipated the prophetic dimension added to those words. Less than a century later ...

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Keith Waller was one of the top ambassadors in a period when Australia urgently needed them. During the Cold War, he served in Moscow and then Washington, where a skilled resident diplomat could be more important than a visiting prime minister ...

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Simon Leys: Navigator between worlds by Philippe Paquet, translated by Julie Rose

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April 2018, no. 400

The Belgian-born scholar Pierre Ryckmans, more widely known to the world by his adopted name of Simon Leys, was widely hailed in the Australian press at his death in 2014 as ‘one of the most distinguished public intellectuals’ of his adopted country, where he had lived and taught for many years – first in Canberra, later in ...

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My earliest memory of Princess Margaret is flicking through my grandmother’s copy of 'The Australian Women’s Weekly' and seeing photographs of a middle-aged woman, in huge sunglasses and a colourful kaftan, on a tropical island. I surmised she was famous but did not know why. My grandmother explained ...

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Readers of this review are warned that they are in the presence of an addict. Having read Anthony Powell’s monumental twelve-volume Dance to the Music of Time three times, I had been trying not to succumb to a fourth. Then along comes Hilary Spurling’s brilliant biography and will power has suffered total defeat ...

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Rayner Hoff, the most significant sculptor to work in Australia between the wars, is most admired for his sculptures in the Anzac war memorials in Sydney and Adelaide. His work was in the classical figurative tradition in which he had trained. While never part of the international avant-garde, he remained modern for ...

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Recently, the chief classical music critic of The New York Times, Anthony Tommasini, adroitly summarised the nebulous perils of his job: ‘Music, especially purely instrumental music, resists being described in language. It’s very hard to convey sounds through words. Perhaps that’s what we most love about music: that ...

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There has been an argument going on in the Liberal Party about the nature of the Menzies heritage – was Robert Menzies, the founder of the modern party, a liberal or a conservative? Notably absent from this discussion has been the national figure who was the first leader of a united anti-Labor party and who also happens to have been a father of Federation, Alfred ...

This fascinating volume on the fate of Clara (Claretta) Petacci, mistress to Benito Mussolini, by distinguished historian R.J.B. Bosworth, is a meticulously researched and multi-layered account tracing the fateful relationship between the fascist dictator and his younger paramour. From the genesis of the affair to its well-known aftermath, Bosworth enlivens our unde ...

Among the glittering generation of pioneering aviators and aviatrixes of the 1920s and 1930s, Jessie ‘Chubbie’ Miller stands out as remarkably adventurous. Carol Baxter’s highly readable biography provides an engaging portrait of a young suburban housewife who decided, quite literally, to make her own way in the world. As Baxter acknowledges, for a biographer ...