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Xavier Herbert

1 April 1938, the day he received news of winning the Sesquicentenary Library Prize
Born 15 May 1901(1901-05-15)
Geraldton, WA, Australia
Died 10 November 1984 (aged 83)
Occupation Author
Nationality Australian

Xavier Herbert (15 May 1901 – 10 November 1984) was an Australian writer best known for his Miles Franklin Award-winning novel Poor Fellow My Country (1975). He is considered one of the elder statesmen of Australian literature. He is also known for short story collections and his autobiography Disturbing Element.

Herbert was born Alfred Jackson in Geraldton, Western Australia, in 1901, as an illegitimate child. Before writing he worked many jobs in Western Australia and Victoria; his first job was in a pharmacy at the age of fourteen. After the First World War he moved to Melbourne and started his writing career, but did not publish his first book, Capricornia, until 1938. Capricornia was, in part, based on Herbert's experiences being a Protector of the Aborigines in Darwin, even though it was written in London between 1930 and 1932.

The 1940s and 1950s were a relatively lean time for Herbert in terms of publication. He released Seven Emus. In the 1960s he published two books, before the release of Poor Fellow My Country (1975), as well as a short story collection. Poor Fellow My Country is the longest Australian novel.

Herbert was well known for his outspoken views on indigenous issue. As anyone who has read Poor Fellow My Country can atest to he was outspoken a great champion of Aboriginal peoples, particularly those living in missions in Queensland and the Northern Territory. In his personal life he was considered difficult, and his wife Sadie said it was a choice between having children and looking after Xavier. He also frustrated his biographers by telling tall stories about his life and past.

Herbert died in 1984, aged 83.


Published works

  • Capricornia (1938)
  • Seven Emus (1959)
  • Soldiers' Women (1961)
  • Disturbing Element (1963) - Autobiography
  • Larger than Life (1963) - Collection of Short Stories
  • Poor Fellow My Country (1975) - Miles Franklin Award Winner, 1975
  • South of Capricornia (1990) - Edited by Russel McDougal - Collection of Short Stories
  • Xavier Herbert (1992) - Edited by Frances de Groen and Peter Pierce - Collection of Short Stories
  • Xavier Herbert Letters (2002) - By Xavier Herbert, Frances De Groen, Laurie Hergenhan (University of Queensland Press, Queensland, Australia, 2002) ISBN 0702233099, 9780702233098, 490 pages
  • Letters from Xavier Herbert (1983) - NLA MS 9116, By Peggy Hayes

Xavier Herbert Biographies

  • Xavier Herbert: A Biography - Frances de Groen (1998)

Xavier Herbert Literary Criticism

  • A Long and Winding Road: Xavier Herbert's Literary Journey - Sean Monahan (2003) - Review

External links



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