ArtView January 2016 - Page 16

Elizabeth Harrower: The re-awakening of a post-war literary giant Essay by Rebecca Lim Harrower’s fifth novel, In Certain Circles (withdrawn from publication in 1971, but finally published in 2014), was the impetus for Harrower now experiencing a “fairytale” moment of rediscovery. Until independent publisher Text Publishing reissued Harrower’s The Watch Tower in 2012 (also reissuing or publishing the remainder of her novels and a collection of short stories in rapid succession), many of Harrower’s own acquaintances had no idea she was a writer of the magnitude of White himself. Harrower is an acute and discomfort-producing portraitist as her publisher, Michael Heyward has put it, of: class, gender and power. She applies a spotlight to those things in a way I don’t think any other writer really does, with this intense, unsentimental and relentless psychological examination of men and women interacting with each other. You would be fairly excused if you’d never heard of, nor read a word by, post-war Australian literary author Elizabeth Harrower. Now eighty-seven, and having abandoned writing for almost four decades, Harrower’s first four full length novels Down in the City (1957) The Long Prospect (1958) The Catherine Wheel (1960) and The Watch Tower (1966) - all fell out of print by the early 1990s, despite Harrower being a contemporary and close friend of writers such as Patrick White and Christina Stead, who declared The Long Prospect to have “no equal in our writing.” And despite Harrower herself declaring that writing is “what I can do, it’s all I can do.”