Peter Craven

Peter Craven is co-editor of the Australian literary magazine, Scripsi.

Diary: On the Demidenko Affair

Peter Craven, 16 November 1995

On 20 October in Melbourne, I had the satisfaction, as one of the judges of the Victorian Premier’s Prize for First Fiction, of not giving the award to a young writer who has perpetrated one of the greatest frauds in Australia’s rich history of literary hoaxes and deceptions. Before she was exposed, Helen Demidenko, as she styled herself (Helen Darville as she in fact is), might have seemed to be one of the favourites for the prize; indeed, the press was understandably anxious to know whether we had intended shortlisting the book, and only withdrawn it under pressure. In fact, we had determined weeks before the Demidenko affair reached its final phase to give the prize to Richard Flanagan, for his magical-realist investigation of Tasmania’s history, The Death of a River Guide.

Carnival Time

Peter Craven, 18 February 1988

The more Britain affects a déclassé manner while Thatcherism increases the gulf between rich and poor, the more it comes, superficially, to resemble Australia. Linguists speculate that the Australian accent at its purest and broadest is simply an intact version of late 18th and early 19th-century London English. Who knows? I don’t want to overdetermine to the point of absurdity, but it seems fairly obvious that what Clive James represents is a kind of stylised distortion of what Britain sees itself as: a kind of self-possessed jokey coarseness, very smart and very educated, a sort of sharp-talking deified moron – who then has to be defined (surprise, surprise) as Australian.’

SIR: We may one day be old and wise like Ian Hamilton, that noble relic of the literary life who came to Canberra to drink beer with us, to learn the rules of our football, and tell us gently that he is above anything so meagre and so cliché’d, so earnest and recherché, as a Literary Magazine (Diary, 9 July). We listened politely as he suggested that the demise of his own magazines symbolised the...

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences