Marks, Kathy: Keneally and Gallipoli

Marks, Kathy

Thomas Keneally: “I hope no one says Australia was born at Gallipoli”‘, Guardian Australia, 18 February 2014

Australia should “apologise to the ghosts” of young soldiers who survived the first world war but had to fight for compensation when they returned home traumatised by the horrors of the battlefield, says the author and historian Thomas Keneally. In an interview ahead of the Perth Writers festival, where he will be celebrating 50 years since the publication of his first book, Keneally suggests that ceremonies marking the centenary of the outbreak of the first world war should avoid jingoism and spurious myths, and instead confront the “terrible tragedies of shell-shock and high explosive and burial alive”.

“I hope it’s celebrated in the spirit of what these young men really went through, and the fact we let them down when they came back – we denied the shell-shock, we were niggardly with compensation,” says the Booker Prize-winning author of Schindler’s Ark. “We’re very hot on praising the diggers, but we should apologise to their ghosts for the lack of justice we gave them.

“I also hope no one says ‘Australia was born at Gallipoli’. Australia was born in 1901, and there needs to be a certain amount of de-mythologising. Let’s hope the historians win out over the politicians, who strike me as fairly jingoistic.”

The article attracted 80 comments, among which this one stood out, from ID1106291:

With all due respect there is a fetish with WW1 in Australia that’s just creepy considering what came after, all the more worshipful duty I suppose. I started life in New Zealand and what struck not only me but also my parents when first coming to Australia was what seemed to us an over remembering of war which turned out to be a way of blanking out so much.

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