Born: Established: 24 Aug 1911 Dunedin ; Died: 18 Jul 1989 Mosman
an14515627-1 ADFA Personality files checked LB 26/9/06
Olaf Ruhen was the son of Carl Ruhen, a German from Schleswig-Holstein and a Frisian Islander, who became a timber merchant in New Zealand. His wife, Margaret nee Johnson, born in New Zealand, came from a Shetland Island family. Olaf Ruhen was educated at Otago Boys' High School. As a young man, he worked with horse teams, as a shepherd, and as a deep-sea fisherman for six years. This career ended when he wrecked his own boat, the 'Alice'. He had published some articles with the Dunedin Evening Star and from 1938 to 1941 was employed as a journalist with the newspaper. During this period he wrote a number of short stories published by the Sydney Bulletin.
During the Second World War Ruhen joined the RNZAF 1941-1945, serving with the RAF flying Lancasters for the Bomber Command. From 1945 to 1947 he was again employed by the Evening Star. In 1947 he moved to Sydney, where he worked for the Telegraph, the Sun and the Sydney Morning Herald. Ruhen was also writing short stories again for the Bulletin and, more lucratively, the Saturday Evening Post where his highest payment was $2,250 for a story. He resigned in 1956 to become a freelance writer after quarrelling with the Sydney Morning Herald.
Ruhen concentrated on overseas markets, primarily the United States, then Britain and Europe. Despite his reputation for treating writing as a business, Ruhen was a writer of integrity who rejected a Saturday Evening Post offer to serialise his first novel, Naked under Capricorn, because they wished to make changes that he felt would rob the novel of its truth. American serial rights to the novel would have been worth between $9,000 and $13,000. In 1963 he was the first director of the School of Creative Writing, University of Adelaide, and in 1973 of the summer school of creative writing in Papua New Guinea.
Ruhen published several hundred short stories in anthologies and magazines. He contributed to most of the Australian journals with a national circulation and to the Saturday Evening Post, Argosy and other overseas journals. He also wrote film scripts and contributed to the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Ruhen wrote a variety of non-fiction works, based largely on his extensive travels in Australia, New Guinea and the South Pacific. They included two historical works, Minerva Reef (1963) and Bullock Teams : the building of a nation (1980). Ruhen also wrote The Day of the Diprotodon (1976), an information book for children.
Ruhen was a founding committee member of the Australian Society of Authors, and vice-president of Sydney PEN. In 1976 he won the Qantas Short Story Award.
(Source:'Olaf Ruhen 1911-1989', Contemporary Authors : Nw Revision Series 20: 403-405; 'Olaf Ruhen Traveller In The Byways' in John Hetherington Forty-Two Faces (1962): 121-126; 'Ruhen, Olaf (1911-89)' in William H. Wilde et.al. The Oxford Companion to Australian Literature (1994): 667)