Allan Gardiner


When I visited Ralph de Boissiere at his home in the Melbourne suburbs I was greeted by a youthful and vigorous octogenarian. The scholar Reinhard Sander had commented on de Boissiere's good health in a 1986 article1 on his novels.2 But I am still a little surprised by his intensity when he tells me, at his dinner table, about regular morning swims, midday trips to classical music shops, and afternoon writing sessions. 'You have to stay fit,' he asserts, 'to live as long as possible. What good is it if, after you are dead, people say, "What a good writer he was!'" He has certainly watched many of his peers die unacknowledged; many missing out on even posthumous fame. His concern about recognition as a writer is relevant to my visit. I wanted to fill in some of the details left out of an account he published in 1981 as 'On Writing a Novel'3 about the writing of his first two novels. That essay left me still wondering, on the one hand, how he achieved the level of success he did, and, on the other, what had limited this success. I wanted to know more about the social relationships that must have existed to support a radical writing such as his; and I wanted to know why Realist writers, specifically those with 'workerist' or socialist impulses, are little known. Have they been censored and/or culturally marginalised or is their relative obscurity due to fau\ts of their own?



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