The ABR Podcast

The ABR Podcast 

Released every Thursday, the ABR podcast features our finest reviews, poetry, fiction, interviews, and commentary.

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Morag Fraser

Episode #79

‘The heft of the visual’

Morag Fraser on Tim Bonyhady’s vivid prompt to memory

Tim Bonyhady is one of Australia’s leading environmental lawyers and cultural historians. He has previously traced connections between art and national mythologies in books such as Images in Opposition (1985) and The National Picture (2018). In his latest work, Two Afternoons in the Kabul Stadium, he turns his attention to Afghanistan, unpicking the fabric of contemporary Afghan society by following closely the warp and weft of its visual culture, from women’s fashion to war rugs to photography. In today’s episode, Morag Fraser reviews Bonyhady’s book, writing in the wake of the Taliban victory, and immersing herself in the ‘intriguingly tangential and complex history’ woven by one of Australia’s most scrupulous and sensitive observers of culture. Morag Fraser, a previous chairperson of ABR, has been writing for the magazine since the 1990s.

 

   

 

Recent episodes:


Recently, for the eleventh time, ABR presented the Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize. This year the Prize attracted 1,428 entries, from thirty-six different countries. In a virtual ceremony last night, ABR named Camilla Chaudhary as the winner of this year’s Jolley Prize for her story titled ‘The Enemy, Asyndeton’. The judges – Melinda Harvey, Elizabeth Tan, and Gregory Day – described Chaudhary’s entry as ‘a delightful, nimble story; the characters bristle with life, and the dialogue is crisply rendered’. In today’s episode, listen to Camilla Chaudhary read her story in its entirety.

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Few books have had as decisive an impact on the history of Indigenous Australian land management as Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu. And yet, as Peter Sutton and Keryn Walshe argue in Farmers or Hunter-gatherers?, the foundations upon which Pascoe builds his account of Indigenous agriculture may be shakier than first thought. In his review of Sutton and Walshe’s book, writer and anthropologist Stephen Bennetts assesses not only their criticisms of Pascoe’s claims, but also the surrounding controversy that has turned a scholarly debate into another theatre in a culture war. What this political furore threatens to obscure is the long tradition of Australian anthropological research that has been essential to the legal restoration of Indigenous land ownership.

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On 4 August 2020, Theodore Ell was living in Beirut, Lebanon, when an explosion erupted at the local port, killing more than 200 people and injuring more than 7,500. Ell and his wife, a diplomat, survived, but were badly shaken. At the encouragement of his close friend Beejay Silcox, Ell turned his experience into the essay ‘Façades of Lebanon’, a harrowing, intimate piece of reportage, and the deserving winner of the 2021 Calibre Essay Prize. In today’s episode, listen to Ell in conversation with Silcox about the inception of his prize-winning work, the balancing act of writing trauma and place, the historical complexities of Beirut, and more.

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Francis Webb, an Australian poet born in 1925, was widely regarded by his contemporaries as one of the most gifted poets of his generation. His creative output was extensive, despite a troubled life living with a diagnosis of schizophrenia. His first major poem, ‘A Drum for Ben Boyd’, appeared in book form when he was only twenty-two. In today’s episode, listen to ABR’s Sydney theatre critic Ian Dickson read the poem in its entirety.

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Theodore Ell was living in Beirut, Lebanon, on 4 August 2020 when an explosion devastated the city and shook a nation already teetering on the brink of economic collapse. Ell and his wife, a diplomat, were badly affected, but survived. Ell's essay, 'Façades of Lebanon', intertwines the author's outsider observation of the nation with a harrowing personal experience of the blast. It represents reportage at its best, and is a fitting winner of the 2021 Calibre Prize. 

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In 2020, the Victorian government declared it would establish a Truth and Justice process to ‘recognise historic wrongs and address ongoing injustices for Aboriginal Victorians’. The Yoo-rrook Justice Commission was announced in March this year as the governing body of this process, one to be led by five commissioners and invested with the powers of a royal commission. In today’s episode, Paul Muldoon reads his essay from the July issue, ‘The prison of the past’, which considers the future challenges and complexities facing the commission. As he writes: ‘In truth and reconciliation, “healing” has come to assume a central importance. But exactly who or what is being healed?’

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As the world realigns itself in the wake of a global pandemic, ABR turns its thoughts to the various forms – individual and institutional, material and more intangible – that recovery may take. In 'Poetry in times of recovery', we asked a number of Australian poets to share the works that best capture how recovery can look, sound, and feel. Today’s episode builds on the popularity of our ‘Poetry in troubled times’ episodes, released in 2020.

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In today's episode, Josephine Rowe – winner of the 2016 ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize – reads a new short story, 'Bunker', which appears in the June issue of ABR. Josephine has published three short story collections and a novel called A Loving, Faithful Animal.

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Patrick White, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1973, has long been considered Australia’s finest novelist. And yet, the thirtieth anniversary of his death in 2020 passed by with barely a murmur. Was this merely a consequence of the pandemic, or are there larger cultural forces at play? In today's episode, historian and ABR Calibre prize-winning essayist Martin Thomas considers the posthumous neglect of the great Australian writer, who once described himself as a ‘Londoner at heart’ and who continues to challenge jingoistic and complacent forms of nationalism.

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In today's episode, Ilana Snyder – President of the New Israel Fund Australia – places the recent turmoil in Israel and Palestine in the context of the all-too-familiar cycle of tension, violence, and ceasefire that has beset the region for decades. What might it take for there to be an enduring peace? Snyder examines this question, while also identifying what sets the most recent violence apart from previous eruptions: an increase in ‘intercommunal violence’ that ‘has pitted Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel against one another on streets where they have lived side by side for decades’.

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