Essays and Commentary

'The divine stenographer: Victor Hugo and the glory of narrative' by Brian Nelson

Brian Nelson
29 June 2011

For many of his contemporaries, Victor Hugo (1802–85) was the most important literary figure of the nineteenth century. He was considered the greatest French poet; he became the leader of the Romantic movement with the staging of his anti-classical play Hernani (1830); and he wrote monumental, hugely popular novels. He was also an iconic political figure. ... More

2011 Calibre Prize (winner): 'Who Killed Matilda?'

Moira McKinnon
28 June 2011

I am a doctor. Once I was a doctor of individuals, now I am a ‘doctor of populations’. Population health is about actions to improve the health of communities, nations, and the world. Challenges are many: the mobility and density of populations, contemporary desires and pressures, the safety of food in complex systems, poverty, the immense power of big businesse ... More

Patrick Allington questions ‘What is Australia, anyway?’

Patrick Allington
24 May 2011
‘Arran Avenue, Hamilton, Brisbane, Australia ... Why Australia? What is Australia, anyway?’ 
(Dante, in David Malouf’s Johnno)

Some footy talk before the book chat: I saw Wayne Carey play once, in Adelaide. He was a puppeteer that day. You would have needed a panoramic view – television doesn’t capture ... More

The biographer’s contract

Frances Spalding
06 May 2011

The business of authoring another person’s life is problematic and potentially dangerous. You need to be brave to write biography. It is not just the labour involved, or the obsessive research involving more travel and hours of work than can be deemed cost-effective; it also requires a self-exposing judiciousness. At every stage in the procedure decisions are made ... More

Joel Deane: Julian Assange against the world

Joel Deane
27 April 2011

On 30 July 2010, WikiLeaks uploaded a file named ‘insurance.aes256’ to the Internet. The file was 1.4 gigabytes in size – large enough to hold a mountain of leaked documents – and encrypted with a 256-character key strong enough to have the US National Security Agency’s approval for use to secure classified documents. It was also copied to dozens of USB st ... More

Colin Golvan: The new electronic order

Colin Golvan
21 April 2011

If developments in relation to music and the Internet are any guide, writers and publishers will increasingly be addressing the opportunities for self-management on the Internet. For writers, there is a well-established path for sharing copyright works without charge. This is known as the Creative Commons, which publishes ... More

2011 Calibre Prize (Winner): The Death of the Writer

Dean Biron
20 April 2011

In February 1878 in Marseilles, France, Józef Teodor Konrad Nałęcz Korzeniowski, a twenty-year-old Polish seafarer tormented by depression, lifted a revolver to his chest and pulled the trigger. The suicide attempt failed: the bullet, whether by chance or design, penetrated the young man’s body without disrupting any vital organ. Korzeniowski recovered quickly ... More

'Dr Goldsworthy on Dr Chekhov' by Peter Goldsworthy

Peter Goldsworthy
12 April 2011

‘Who do you think you are?’ an eminent paediatrician once thundered at me across a child’s cot during his weekly grand ward round. ‘Anton Chekhov?’

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'Hazel Rowley: Biographer of big subjects' by Lucy Sussex

Lucy Sussex
24 March 2011

To write about a biographer is to be aware of a presence, psychologically if not spectrally, sitting on your shoulder. This presence is not an angel, more like an imp, the minor demon that arouses bad deeds, or thoughts. In writing about a biographer we can feel not angelic inspiration, but the imp of doubt, saying: This is not good enough, I could do better.

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'Something is turning: The role of essays in a questioning culture' by Jane Goodall

Jane Goodall
23 March 2011

Address to the reader is one of the conventions of the modern essay form, going back to Montaigne, who includes a statement of address by way of an introduction to his collected writings. A question or series of questions refreshes the direct address along the way, accentuates the sense of voice, and vitalises the connection by supposing the reader as an interlocuto ... More

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