I’m not quite sure how Monash University Press has done this, but this is a high production but relatively low volume book, so I was expecting its price to be around the $60 mark. It is $39.95 in shops, but can be purchased for $30.95 from Booktopia. This compares more than favourably to the extraordinary $150 odd price that Palgrave charged for the previous book I launched – Max Corden’s memoirs.
I have reached a new stage in my life. It is the book-launching stage, first identified in Egyptian writings where it was called the “scroll rolling” stage of life, though we only know this second hand from Phoenician sources. At least judging from my experience, it comes upon one quite suddenly. I hadn’t launched any books until this May and now I’ve launched two. Naturally, at my stage of life, I would be a fool not to make myself available for your next book launch.
In any event I was asked to launch a marvellous book Dunera Lives – which I recommend to you not least because it’s text is deliciously short and well written with a whole slew of lavish illustration showing you just how much class was incarcerated on that boat and in the camps when it arrived in Australia.
Checking sources as I wrote my speech I came upon a review of the first popular book on the Dunera sticky taped into the cover of Cyril Pearl’s The Dunera Scandal by my father. He ended it with the story of one of the Dunera refugees being shown a galah in a tree beyond the barbed wire by a soldier. “Have you ever seen one of those before?”. The soldier asked. “Yes” came the reply, but on that occasion it was in the cage.” The book is full of this kind of liveliness and cheek.
In any event, the book was being worked on as historian Ken Inglis’s final project. He died before it could be completed but it was then taken to completion by his friend, American academic historian Jay Winter, historian at Monash University Seamus Spark and Carol Bunyan who was born in Hay and has taken a huge interest in the Dunera story and in documenting it. Though many of the speeches were apologetic that it couldn’t be as good as Ken would have made it, it’s different to what Ken would have delivered, but not worse. In particular Seamus’s researches turned up a treasure trove of artefacts that are beautifully reproduced.
There was a lot of class when they arrived. But they added to that class. Here’s the Red Cross report on the Hay Camps 7 and 8 which took the Dunera Boys.
I spoke after Rai Gaita, Jay Winter and Seamus. There were actually two launches. One on Sunday 8th July at the Melbourne Jewish Museum (this was after a launch at the National Library in Canberra) and one at Readings Hawthorn the next day.
In any event, my speech is below. As you’ll note, I end it, as I ended my speech launching Max Corden’s memoirs with a quote about Captain Broughton which I think of as a kind of incantation to empathy. I’d love to get a fund going to endow an annual Broughton Prize for a conspicuous act of empathy. Anyone fancy helping?
Remarks on launching Dunera Lives
As I discovered when I spoke yesterday, though none of the speakers planned it this way, the speeches you’ve just heard take me to the point I want to make. Note that none of the authors of the book were relatives of the Dunera Boys. And the one with the most distant physical connection – living on another continent – is the only one who’s Jewish.
Jay spoke of the story as the triumph of Jewish customs and ways of life encountering and being re-lived in a new land, I wanted to celebrate the way in which the host culture – Australian non-Jewish culture and the Australian people rose to the occasion.
Many of you will have seen the Hollywood movie “Pretty Woman” which ends in a famous scene which re-enacts the archetypal folk tale of Rapunzel. After performing the requisite heroics, Richard Gere as the hero asks Julia Roberts, now secure in his arms as the heroine “So what happened when he climbed up the tower and rescued her?”. She answers “She rescues him right back”. Continue reading