The Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes - review by Howard Jacobson

Howard Jacobson

How Matilda Lost Her Cherry

The Fatal Shore


Collins Harvill 688pp £15.00 order from our bookshop

Robert Hughes tells with wicked relish the story of a distinguished left-wing Australian intellectual who, when he heard that Hughes was writing a book on the transportation of convicts to that country, remarked that this was like Eichmann undertaking a history of the Jews. Hughes’s immediate response to this (during a radio interview, I believe) was pithily anecdotal: as his dentist always told him before an injection, he had nothing to fear from a little prick. Matters of the mind are pursued with an enviable robustness in Australia.

The Eichmann analogy does not, as I understand it, allude to any proveable record of systematic sadism towards convicts on Robert Hughes’s part. From a Marxist point of view his well-connectedness (his brother T E F Hughes was Attorney-General under Gorton and not famous for milk-and-water liberalism), his patrician air

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

OUP Niven

Follow Literary Review on Twitter