By Mouni Sadhu
In the literature of all countries there are books of great and medium value and also valueless once, and evidently our young country is no exception.
But I will venture to say that, fortunately, the e number of „black sheep” among Australian books forms a much lover percentage than among English ones. It is true that a number of rites here have published and are publishing their works abroad, because of the limited book-market in this country, primarily due, of course, to the relatively small population, witch sometimes simply cannot absorb a sufficient number of copies of a book to justify a local publisher's production cost.
This principally refers to specialized literature such as philosophic and scientific works chiefly intended for general readers. This was also the opinion of a leading publisher here, when I tentatively offered one of a books, all of which are steadny being published by leading firms in the on the U.K., on the Continent and in both North and South America, and as translations in several other languages.
Even so, Australian books are reaching the books-markets of the English speaking world and are being duly evaluated and criticized.
And that is why we should not close our eyes to the „black sheep” of our literature, because they are placing Australian writers and their work in an unfavourable light.
As I am interested in prominent men who have been active on Australian soil, it happened that I came across the name of Sir Paul Edmund Strzelecki, who was in this country about 120 years ago.
From the excellent historical book by Geoffrey Rawson („ The Count, a live of Sir Paul Edmund Strzelecki, K.C.M.G, Explorer and Scientist ”), a scholarly work by W. L Havard (in the Proceedings of the Royal Australian Historical Society) and the basic biography by W. Slabczynski, noted historian and Director of the National Library of Warsaw and his „Selected Writings of Paul Edmund Strzelecki” one can well build up a true picture of the explorer scientist and philanthropist and his romantic personality, who, as Bernard Cronin wrote in 1959 „secured for himself a niche for all time.”
However, a friend, who is a historian, recently gave me a book about Strzelecki. And ro me, this a on those „black sheep” which brings title honour to Australian literature.
There is no room here to enter into a detailed analysis of it and only a few lines can be given to it, but these should suffice for an independent critic to from his own opinion.
In reading this „historical” effort we have to accept that everything positive which has been said about Strzelecki by the previously mentioned author (an we can find more of them in the world's literature) is definitely wrong: that he did not perform any worthwhile work when sojourning for four years of Australia and Tasmania; that he did not discover anything - no gold, or coal; did not explore Gippsland (which he named), nor was he entitled to name mountain peaks, ranges, and so on; that superlatives which contemporary, eminent men in the British Empire used about him, were dictated or wrongly inspired by Strzelecki himself; that his knighthood, membership of the Royal Geographical and Royal Societies in London, orders of the Bath, St. George, ect. were unjustified, and that his admirable activities in Ireland, when he led the action against the terrible famine of 1847 - 48, were of no importance.
Finally, no value can by attached to his famous book „Physical Description of New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land”, which for many years was a reference book, and which still has not lost all its value even in our day.
Briefly, all that we know about Strzelecki is incorrect; but only because Miss Heney wants it so. If we are to believe her, what sort of an omnipotent magician was he, that he himself suggested that he be honoured and loved while being unworthy, and that eminent people of his epoch-ministers, politicians, scientists, administrators-even such a realist as was his friend Charles Darwin-meekly accept and obeyed Strzelecki's will?
It would be too boring to quote further from H. Heney's „revelations”. The book is only historical fiction, written with an unhealthy hatred towards the prominent deceased, who can no longer defend himself. And its literary value? I have seldom seen such an execrable style and language. And here are the current (but still too gracious) opinions by some reviewers who otherwise seem to accept the fiction of the „Dark Glass” as being close to truth, probably because they have not studied any other historical works about Strzelecki:
Continuation of the next page _can be found here_ …