In 2002, journalist Guy Rundle published a piece devoted to the little-known visit by Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges to Melbourne in May 1938. During his ten-day stay, Borges spent time in the domed reading room of the State Library, a place he found ‘awe-inspiring, even overwhelming’. As a long-term reader of Borges ...... (read more)
In his searching introduction to this immense volume, the editor, Harvard scholar David Der-Wei Wang, refers to the ‘architectonics of temporalities’ by which the project re-maps and re-chronicles Chinese literary history. A New Literary History of Modern China follows the model of the provocatively kaleidoscopic slice ...... (read more)
In the late 1950s, when he was a fellow at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Learning, George Steiner overheard the legendary J. Robert Oppenheimer, at that time head of the Institute, dressing down a young physicist outside his door: ‘You are so young,’ boomed the father of the atomic bomb, ‘and you have already done so little!’ The story appears ...... (read more)
Colin Nettelbeck reviews 'A History of Modern French Literature: From the sixteenth century to the twentieth century' edited by Christopher Prendergast
On the acknowledgments page of this vast compendium, Christopher Prendergast describes the creation of the work as an ‘arduous task’ and the book itself as an ‘unwieldy vessel’. One can sympathise with the difficulty of presenting as a history of five centuries of French literature what would more accurately be described as a chronological anthology of essay ...
Tim Winton is embarrassing to Australian literary critics. It is not that it is impossible to form adequate literary judgements about the nature of his work. It is simply that any judgements one might form seem so totally irrelevant. Winton’s work makes plain a certain disconnect between the interests and imperatives of Australian literary criticism and those of t ...
Delys Bird reviews 'Like Nothing on this Earth: A literary history of the wheatbelt' by Tony Hughes-d’Aeth
In his Epilogue to this major study of the West Australian wheatbelt and its writers, Tony Hughes-d’Aeth describes his work. With no ‘exact precedent’ in Australian scholarship, it is ‘best thought of as an amalgam of literary history, literary sociology and literary geography’. To achieve this, Hughes-d’Aeth traces the idea of the wheatbelt through inte ...
Shannon Burns reviews 'Edge of Irony: Modernism in the Shadow of the Habsburg Empire' by Marjorie Perloff
In her introduction to Edge of Irony, Marjorie Perloff claims that in order to ‘understand Modernism ... we have to read, more closely than we have, the deeply ironic war literature of the defunct, multicultural, and polyglot Austro-Hungarian Empire’ ...... (read more)
Paul Kildea reviews 'The Novel of the Century: The extraordinary adventure of Les Misérables' by David Bellos
Visiting the actor Simon Gleeson in 2014 a few months after he was cast as Jean Valjean in a new production of Les Misérables, I was startled by the bulked-up friend who met me from the train ...... (read more)
Colin Nettelbeck reviews 'The Némirovsky Question: The life, death and legacy of a Jewish writer in 20th century France' by Susan Rubin Suleiman
When Irène Némirovsky’s Suite Française appeared in 2004, it was a huge success, in France and throughout the English-speaking world as well ...... (read more)
Who is the I in Helen Garner’s work? This is the question Bernadette Brennan probes by canvassing more than forty years of Garner’s writing and her seventy-four-year existence ...... (read more)