Mark McKenna

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books -

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

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