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Reason and Lovelessness

Essays, Encounters, Reviews 1980–2017

By Barry Hill


Barry Hill is a multi-award winning writer of poetry, essays, biography, history, criticism, novels, short stories, libretti and reportage. His major works include Sitting In (1992), a landmark memoir in Labour History; Broken Song: TGH Strehlow and Aboriginal Possession (2002), a literary biography and essay in Aboriginal and frontier poetics; and Peacemongers (2014), a pilgrimage book set in India and Japan, and a meditation on 'peace thinking' by the likes of Rabindranath Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi in the years leading up to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Each book has been groundbreaking in different ways: deeply, originally researched, crossing genres, multi-disciplinary, combining the personal with the generically philosophical.

As a writer Hill’s voice is informed by his Australian working-class and militant union background, which has been distilled by his higher education in history and philosophy at the Universities of Melbourne and London. After a decade working as a teacher, educational psychologist and a journalist in Melbourne and London, he has been writing full-time since 1976—mainly based in Queenscliff, Victoria, but with stints at the Australia Council flat in Rome, where he finished poetic/dramatic works on Lucian Freud and Antonio Gramsci, and returns to Central Australia. In recent decades he has deepened his studies In Chinese and Japanese, which is in keeping with his long-term interest in Buddhism.    

Hill’s voice is unique, and his insight both profoundly important and capable of taking the reader to places not glimpsed before or imagined visible.

This collection of essays, reviews and reportage amply demonstrates the quality and enduring importance of Hill’s contribution, in these genres, to Australian literary and intellectual life.

About the author

Barry Hill is a much published historian and poet who was short-listed for the 2009 Melbourne Prize for Literature. Possibly best known for Broken Song, the multi-award-winning biography of TGH Strehlow, the Lutheran linguist from Central Australia. His work in progress is Peacemonger, ‘a travel essay’ about the history of bombing and Rabindranath Tagore’s prophetic travels in Japan. He calls himself a Buddhist.

Hill was born in Australia and educated in Melbourne and London, where he worked as a psychologist and a journalist (The Age and the Times Educational Supplement). He has been writing full-time since 1975 and has won major awards for poetry, history, non-fiction and the essay.

His short fiction has been widely anthologized, some of it translated into Chinese and Japanese. He writes libretti and has done much work for radio. Broken Song: TGH Strehlow and Aboriginal Possession (Knopf 2002) has been described as ‘one of the great Australian books’ (John Mulvaney) and ‘a major event in Australian high culture’ (Robert Manne). Necessity: Poems 1996-2006 won the ACT’s 2008 Judith Wright Prize. Lines for Birds, collaboration with the painter, John Wolseley, was short-listed for the 2011 Queensland Premier’s Award. His latest book is Naked Clay: Drawing from Lucian Freud.

Hill also worked as a radio critic on The Age for fifteen years. Between 1998 and 2008, he was Poetry Editor of The Australian, and between 2005 and 2008 was a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Melbourne. He’s currently writing Peacemonger, ‘a travel essay’ about the history of bombing and Rabindranath Tagore’s prophetic encounters with Japan. For decades, he has aspired to be a good Buddhist.


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