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Barry Hill is a multi-award winning writer of poetry, essays, biography, history, criticism, novels, short stories, libretti, and reportage. 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. 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.
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, multi-disciplinary and crossing genres, combining the personal with the generically philosophical.
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 and 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.
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.
‘There are many pleasures to be had and much to be learned from Hill’s essayistic -excursions. Whether meeting the Dalai Lama in the Blue Mountains or railing against the dumbing-down of the ABC, hymning the joys of John Berger’s art criticism or the unblinking gaze of painter Lucian Freud, Hill is a cant-free figure whose prose compass trembles between Lawrentian expansiveness and no-nonsense laconicism’ – The Weekend Australian
‘Barry Hill’s Reason and Lovelessness: Essays, encounters, reviews 1980-2017 is a compendium of life-work by another commanding figure in Australian literary culture. It reveals the sheer range of Hill’s passions and concerns over time, and it reminds us of the commitment, curiosity, and care he has brought to bear upon each of them.’ – Geordie Williamson, Australian Book Review – Books of the Year 2018
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