J. M. Coetzee’s novel The Childhood of Jesus was published in March 2013. He is Professor of Literature at the University of Adelaide and in 2003 was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.


Patrick White: Within a Budding Grove

Patrick White, Sydney, Australia, 1973

The Hanging Garden

by Patrick White, with an afterword by David Marr
The nineteenth century was the heyday of the Great Writer. In our times the concept of greatness has fallen under suspicion, especially when attached to whiteness and maleness, and Great Writers courses have largely been retired from the college curriculum. But to call Patrick White a Great Writer—specifically a Great Writer in the Romantic mold—seems right, if only because he had the typically great-writerly sense of being marked out from birth for an uncommon destiny and granted a talent—not necessarily a welcome one—that it is death to hide, that talent consisting in the power to see, intermittently, flashes of the truth behind appearances.

The Quest for the Girl from Bendigo Street

Photograph by Trent Parke from 'Dream/Life,' a series of his images of Australia

Barley Patch

by Gerald Murnane


by Gerald Murnane
As a writer, Gerald Murnane is a radical idealist. His fictional personages or “image-persons” (characters is a term he does not use) have their existence in a world much like the world of myth, purer, simpler, and more real than the world from which they take their origin. For readers who, despite Murnane’s best efforts, cannot tell the difference between image-persons and figments of the human imagination, it may be best to treat Murnane’s theorizing—which extends into the very texture of his fiction—as no more than an elaborate way of warning us not to identify the storytelling I with the man Gerald Murnane, and therefore not to read his books as autobiographical records, accountable to the same standard of truth as history is. The I who tells the story will be no less a constructed figure than the actors in it.

Storm Over Young Goethe

José Carreras as Werther and Frederica von Stade as Charlotte in Werther, Jules Massenet’s opera based on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s novel. Their 1980 recording, conducted by Sir Colin Davis with the orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, has just been reissued by Decca.

The Sufferings of Young Werther

by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, translated from the German by Stanley Corngold
Two energies go into the making of Werther: the confessional, which gives the book its tragic emotional force, and the political. Passionate and idealistic, Werther is representative of the best of a new generation of Germans sensitive to the stirrings of history, impatient to see the renewal of a torpid social order. An unhappy love affair may precipitate his suicide, but the deeper cause is the failure of German society to offer young people like him anything but what Goethe would later call “dull, spiritless citizen life.”

The Angry Genius of Les Murray

Les Murray, December 1962

Taller When Prone: Poems

by Les Murray

Killing the Black Dog: A Memoir of Depression

by Les Murray
What is at stake in the choice for or against Modernism is, in Les Murray’s eyes, not just the survival in Australia of simple, humane, communal, old-fashioned country values but, more widely, the survival worldwide of a way of life thousands of years old. Murray’s conservatism is defined by his defense of this traditional way of life.

On the Moral Brink

Philip Roth in New York City with an old map of Newark, 2007


by Philip Roth
Philip Roth’s Nemesis, set in Newark in the polio summer of 1944, places him in a line of writers who have used the plague condition to explore the resolve of human beings and the durability of their institutions under attack by an invisible, inscrutable, and deadly force. In this respect the plague condition is simply a heightened state of the condition of being mortal.

From ‘Summertime’: Notebooks 1972–1975

Miki Odagiri as the secretary and Takashi Shimura as the bureaucrat in Akira Kurosawa's Ikiru (To Live; 1952)
22 August 1972 In yesterday’s Sunday Times, a report from Francistown in Botswana. Sometime last week, in the middle of the night, a car, a white American model, drove up to a house in a residential area. Men wearing balaclavas jumped out, kicked down the front door, and began shooting.