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The Passion of Private White

The Passion of Private White

by Don Watson
Publication Date: 03/11/2022

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RRP  $49.99

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From the bestselling author of The Bush, the story of a fifty-year relationship between a Vietnam veteran and an isolated clan in north-east Arnhem Land – a unique, astonishing window into Australia’s deep past and precarious present, by one of our master storytellers.

The Passion of Private White describes the meeting of two worlds: that of the intensely driven anthropologist Neville White, and the world of the last traditional hunter-gatherers clans in remote northern Australia, with whom he has lived and worked for half a century, mapping their culture and history in astonishing detail.

As White tried to comprehend this ancient culture crushed between the need to adapt to modernity and yet hold onto their lands, customs, laws and language, he was also trying to transcend his own mental scars suffered on the battlefields of Vietnam.

Eventually, scholarly observer crossed the line into activist, advocate and altruist, as everything – from mining companies and official incompetence and negligence, to feuds, habits and beliefs ingrained in the people by both tradition and devastating frontier history – constantly frustrated his and the clans’ ambitions. And when White started taking his old platoon mates with him to help make the homeland a healthy refuge, and a seat of both traditional custom and belief and contemporary skills and education, two wildly different groups found in each other some of the therapy they both needed.

Don Watson has had his own fifty-year relationship with Neville White, since meeting him as an undergraduate in Melbourne. This book is the result: moving, enlightening, devastating and inspiring, it is a towering achievement, an astonishing insight into both our recent and our deep history, the colonizer and colonized -– indeed into the human condition itself.

Australasian & Pacific history
Publication Date:
Simon & Schuster Australia
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Don Watson

Don Watson's Recollections of a Bleeding Heart: Paul Keating Prime Minister, won the Age Book of the Year and Non-Fiction Prizes, the Brisbane Courier Mail Book of the Year, the National Biography Award and the Australian Literary Studies Association's Book of the Year.

His Quarterly Essay, Rabbit Syndrome : Australia and America won the Alfred Deakin Essay Prize. Death Sentence, his best-selling book about the decay of public language won the Australian Booksellers Association Book of the Year 2003.

Watson's Dictionary of Weason Words, another best-seller, was published in 2004. His most recent book American Journeys won the Age Non-Fiction and Book of the Year Awards in 2008. It also won the inaugural Indie Award for Non-Fiction and the Walkley Award for Non-Fiction.

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