Even for a 17-year-old upstart from Muswellbrook, the diary entry was a stunning declaration of intent: ‘‘Friday, 7th January 1938. It is my desire to do great things, but I have not yet decided what great things … if I write I want to write literature. I want to write for Australian literature too.”
The desire for greatness was just as startling as the clarity of its direction. From the earliest moments of his writing life, Donald Horne’s literary ambition was conceived as a contribution to a larger national project, one that ultimately involved dragging Australia out of its provincial torpor towards a future that was independent, republican and explicitly founded on the values of ‘‘liberal humanism”. Horne would write both to and for Australia.
Donald Horne: Selected Writings is introduced by Glyn Davis, vice-chancellor of the University of Melbourne, in what stands as easily the most incisive biographical portrait of Horne to date. The collection is edited by Horne’s son, Nick. It vividly captures the personality of Horne’s voice: restless, provocative, ironic, defiantly optimistic and possessed of a rare talent for acid-like clarity.
Horne distilled what was in the air, articulat- Donald Horne: Selected Writings Edited by Nick Horne La Trobe University Press, 336pp, $32.99
Donald Horne’s aspirations as a writer were boundless