Biography and Memoirs

The love song of Henry and Olga

Ann-Marie Priest
28 April 2014

On an early spring evening in 1919, in a nearly empty cinema in the English seaside town of Lyme Regis, a slight, dark-haired figure slipped into a seat at the farthest edge of a row. From here, she would have a clear view of the profile of the youthful pianist who, sheltered behind a screen, accompanied the silent film. In white tie and tails, with her fair hair sl ... More

Shannon Burns reviews a new biography of Kafka

Shannon Burns
28 March 2014

Franz Kafka lived in Prague in the early part of the twentieth century, during a period of considerable turmoil. Before succumbing to laryngeal tuberculosis aged forty, he witnessed the disintegration of an empire and the subsequent formation of a republic. Kafka also endured the administrative and domestic realities of a world war and was among millions of European ... More

Doris Brett's memoir 'The Twelfth Raven'

Rachel Robertson
28 March 2014

Why does illness create such a marked need for story? Why do we want to read about other people’s illnesses and talk or write about our own? At the most basic level, it is surely because human beings always need stories. Indeed, neuroscientists believe that narrative consciousness is hard-wired into our brains. But what is it about illness in particular that invit ... More

Paul Vallely on Pope Francis

Michael McGirr
27 March 2014

I have never met a pope, but I have sometimes felt their shadow. In 1981, at the tender age of nineteen, I was a novice in the Jesuit order. We lived in a vast establishment in Sydney: the community included naïve youngsters such as myself, wily old retired Jesuits, as well as representatives of every age group in between. It was quite a fun place to live. One day, ... More

Edmund White revisits Paris in his new memoir

Dennis Altman
26 March 2014

All writers mine their lives, some most clearly through combining the autobiographical and the fictional, so that, as with Christopher Isherwood, their works become a mixture of the self-revelatory and observations of the worlds in which they have lived. In more recent times, no one has more closely followed Isherwood than Edmund White, now the author of more than t ... More

Penelope Fitzgerald’s Secret River of Creativity

Brenda Niall
26 February 2014

Award-winning biographer Brenda Niall welcomes the first biography of Penelope Fitzgerald by superlative British biographer Hermione Lee, and is fascinated by the great novelist’s secret river of creativity.

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Lee Christofis reviews the new art biography 'Fantasy Modern'

Lee Christofis
19 January 2014

Reading Andrew Montana’s new biography of Loudon Sainthill leaves one imagining how much the artist would have achieved without his lover, amanuensis, and entrepreneur, Harry Tatlock Miller. Lovers for some thirty-four years, they seem destined to achieve remarkable things together. Well into his project Montana realised that he could not tell Sainthill’s ... More

Ben Stubbs reviews the new memoir 'Salt Story'

Ben Stubbs
19 January 2014

Sarah Drummond’s début is a poetic memoir of life among the fishermen and women on the southern extremities of Western Australia.

The story of ‘Salt’, her mentor and fishing companion, is structured as a series of vignettes around life on the water in the bays, inlets, and fishing channels in this rugged part of Australia, which is ... More

Sheila Fitzpatrick reviews the new biography of Alma Moodie

Sheila Fitzpatrick
17 January 2014

Alma Moodie’s story is remarkable, which makes it all the stranger that she has been so thoroughly forgotten. A frail child prodigy from central Queensland, she became Carl Flesch’s favourite pupil and a renowned concert violinist in Germany after World War I, friend and performer of most of the great figures of international contemporary music, from Max R ... More

Robert Gibson reviews a new study of Wagner

Robert Gibson
17 January 2014

After four days in the theatre, and just as many resting up between instalments, Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen ends with a big tune. Like most of Wagner’s themes, this one has been given a name: the ‘Redemption through Love’ motif. The name was not the work of the composer but of one of his acolytes, Hans von Wolzogen, and in its orig ... More

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