The Unauthorised Biography
By Carolyn Holbrook
Published by New South www.newsouthpublishing.com
RRP $34.99 in paperback
The catalyst for this book, writes Carolyn Holbrook, was the overarching question: why are Australians of the twenty-first century so emotionally attached to a military event that took place nearly one hundred years ago? She also observes that political commemoration plays an increasingly significant role in shaping our opinions of the Great War. Tellingly she writes that we should ‘remain vigilant against the selectivity of our memories and constantly seek to measure the distance between memory and what actually happened’. She urges readers to ‘put aside the commemorative frenzy’. Some political leaders have attempted to do so. Paul Keating attempted to switch the emphasis from an ill-starred landing on the Turkish coastline to the battle to stop the Japanese advance along the Kokoda Track. This I might add resonates more strongly with me since my father was part of that fight. As Carolyn Holbrook writes, there was a strong reaction from the Bruce Ruxton-led RSL to Keating’s attempts to rebalance the national importance of these events. We owe the present style and enthusiasm for Anzac commemoration to an almost unbroken line of political patronage, according to Holbrook. She certainly makes a compelling case for it.