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(Harold Edward) James Aldridge Biography

Nationality: Australian. Born: White Hills, Victoria, 1918. Education: Swan Hill High School; London School of Economics. Career: Writer, Melbourne Herald and Sun, 1937-38, and London Daily Sketch and Sunday Dispatch, 1939; European and Middle East war correspondent, Australian Newspaper Service and North American Newspaper Alliance, 1939-44; Tehran correspondent, Time and Life, 1944. Awards: Rhys Memorial prize, 1945; World Peace Council gold medal; International Organization of Journalists prize, 1967; Lenin Memorial Peace prize, 1972; Australian Children's Book Council Book of the Year award, 1985; Guardian award, for children's book, 1987. Agent: Curtis Brown, 28/29 Haymarket, London SW1Y 4SP, England.

PUBLICATIONS

Novels

Signed with Their Honour. London, Joseph, and Boston, LittleBrown, 1942.

The Sea Eagle. London, Joseph, and Boston, Little Brown, 1944.

Of Many Men. London, Joseph, and Boston, Little Brown, 1946.

The Diplomat. London, Lane, 1949; Boston, Little Brown, 1950.

The Hunter. London, Lane, 1950; Boston, Little Brown, 1951.

Heroes of the Empty View. London, Lane, and New York, Knopf, 1954.

I Wish He Would Not Die. London, Bodley Head, 1957; New York, Doubleday, 1958.

The Last Exile. London, Hamish Hamilton, and New York, Doubleday, 1961.

A Captive in the Land. London, Hamish Hamilton, 1962; New York, Doubleday, 1963.

The Statesman's Game. London, Hamish Hamilton, and New York, Doubleday, 1966.

My Brother Tom. London, Hamish Hamilton, 1966; as My Brother Tom: A Love Story, Boston, Little Brown, 1967.

A Sporting Proposition. London, Joseph, and Boston, Little Brown, 1973; as Ride a Wild Pony, London, Penguin, 1976.

Mockery in Arms. London, Joseph, 1974; Boston, Little Brown, 1975.

The Untouchable Juli. London, Joseph, 1975; Boston, Little Brown, 1976.

One Last Glimpse. London, Joseph, and Boston, Little Brown, 1977.

Goodbye Un-America. London, Joseph, and Boston, Little Brown, 1979.

The True Story of Lola MacKellar. London, Viking, 1992.

Short Stories

Gold and Sand. London, Bodley Head, 1960.

Uncollected Short Stories

"Braver Time," in Redbook (New York), May 1967.

"The Unfinished Soldiers," in Winter's Tales 15, edited by A.D. Maclean. London, Macmillan, 1969; New York, St. Martin's Press, 1970.

"The Black Ghost of St. Helen," in After Midnight Ghost Book, edited by James Hale. London, Hutchinson, 1980.

Plays

The 49th State (produced London, 1947).

One Last Glimpse (produced Prague, 1981).

Television Plays:

Scripts for Robin Hood series.

Other

Undersea Hunting for Inexperienced Englishmen. London, Allen andUnwin, 1955.

The Flying 19 (for children). London, Hamish Hamilton, 1966.

Living Egypt, photographs by Paul Strand. London, MacGibbon andKee, and New York, Horizon Press, 1969.

Cairo: Biography of a City. Boston, Little Brown, 1969; London, Macmillan, 1970.

The Marvelous Mongolian (for children). Boston, Little Brown, andLondon, Macmillan, 1974.

The Broken Saddle (for children). London, MacRae, 1982; NewYork, Watts, 1983.

The True Story of Lilli Stubek (for children). South Yarra, Victoria, Hyland House, 1984; London, Penguin, 1986.

The True Story of Spit MacPhee (for children). Ringwood, Victoria, Viking, and London, Viking Kestrel, 1986.

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Critical Studies:

"The Necessity of Freedom: A Discussion of the Novels of James Aldridge," in Overland (Melbourne), November 1956; "It All Comes Out Like Blood: The Novels of James Aldridge," in Australians by John Hetherington, Melbourne, Cheshire, 1960; "Man of Action, Words in Action" by Eric Partridge, in Meanjin (Melbourne), 1961; "The Heroic Ordinary" by Evelyn Juers, in Age Monthly Review (Melbourne), February 1987; Workers and Sufferers: Town v. Self in James Aldridge's St. Helen Novels, London, Australian Studies Centre, 1987, and "My Brother Tom: My Other Self," in Orana (Sydney), February 1989, both by Michael Stone.

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James Aldridge left Australia when quite a young man as a war correspondent; and this fact has largely determined the material and the angle of approach in his work. He went through the Greek campaign and wrote two books based directly on his experiences in it. Here his method was strongly affected by Hemingway; but the books were saved from being mere imitations by the genuine freshness and truth of his presentation. He was learning how to build a narrative full of stirring events and based on historical developments which he knew at first-hand, and at the same time to link the story with the personal problems and struggles of his protagonists. With his next book, a collection of stories, came a break from the Hemingway influence. What he had gained from his apprenticeship was now integrated in his own method and outlook. The tales showed how well he was able to grasp situations with very diverse settings and convincingly to define aspects of national character in a compact form. Still drawing on his wartime experiences as a correspondent, he wrote The Diplomat, an ambitious large-scale work, dealing with both the Soviet Union and the region of the Kurds in northern Mesopotamia. With much skill he explored the devious world of diplomacy in the postwar world, making the issues concrete by their basis in the difficult national question of the Kurds. Aldridge emerged as an important political novelist. He showed himself able to handle complicated political themes without losing touch with the essential human issues. The political aspects were removed from triviality or narrowness by being linked with the painful struggles of the protagonist to understand the world in which he found himself an actor. Thus what gave artistic validity to the work, beyond any particular conclusions reached in the search for truth, was the definition of that search itself.

In The Hunter Aldridge next refreshed himself by dropping all large themes and turning to Canada in a work more concerned with immediacies of experience: his theme was the world of the hunter, a direct relationship to nature, and he showed he could conjure up a dimension of sheer physical living. But it was perhaps significant that when he turned from the theme of contemporary history and politics, it was to the sphere of nature, not to everyday life in some specific society. For good and bad, his uprooting through the war had made him into a novelist of the large national conflicts of his age. His material had thus been born of his journalism, but in transforming it to fiction he overcame the journalistic limitations and was able to penetrate to deep human issues. He saw problems in terms of real people, and has never been guilty of inventing puppets to represent national or political positions.

He turned again to the Near East, in Heroes of the Empty View, I Wish He Would Not Die, and The Last Exile, in which he took up the problems of the Arab world, with special reference to Egypt. He was helped by having many direct connections and sources of information; but despite his sympathy for the Arabs he did not oversimplify issues or make his works into tracts for a particular point of view. The stories clarified events and deepened the reader's understanding of the human beings entangled in vast conflicts. In his later works he returned to the question of the Soviet Union, but with less force and artistic success than in The Diplomat or the books on the near East. It would be hard to point to any contemporary novelist who has dealt more directly with international political problems in the second half of the twentieth century. Certainly it would be difficult to find one who has done so with such success, uniting a warm sympathy for the persons about whom he writes with, in the last resort, a true artistic detachment.

—Jack Lindsay

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