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Drusilla Modjeska was born in England, but, after spending some time in New Guinea during the 1960s, she has lived in Australia since 1971. After studying at the Australian National University, Modjeska completed her education at the University of New South Wales, writing a PhD thesis on women writers of the 1920s and 1930s. This was revised and expanded for the influential book, Exiles at Home: Australian Women Writers 1925-1945 (1981), establishing Modjeska as a prominent voice in Australian literary studies. She has since worked at a number of institutions, including the University of Technology, Sydney, and the University of New South Wales. She has also edited a number of collections of non-fiction and fiction.
Modjeska has been a regular reviewer for several newspapers and magazines, and, since 1990, has published a number of widely-admired biographical and creative works. Her biography of her mother, Poppy (1990), won a number of prizes, including the Douglas Stewart Prize for non-fiction. She also contributed a novella to Secrets (1995), a collaboration with Robert Dessaix (q.v.) and Amanda Lohrey (q.v.). Modjeska's most recent work is Stravinsky's Lunch (2000) which recounts the lives of Australian artists Grace Cossington Smith (1893-1947) and Stella Bowen (1892-1984).
Drusilla Modjeska won a three year Senior ARC Research Fellowship in 2000 to complete a study on 'Post-Colonialism and Life-Writing in New Guinea after 1966' at the University of Sydney: she spent some years in Papua New Guinea in the early years of her marriage to anthropologist Nicholas Mojeska, including studying at the University of Papua New Guinea. She remains committed to supporting literacy and education in remote Papua New Guinean communities. She has also taught at the University of Technology, Sydney, where she was part of the team that established the writing program.
'Richly textured, combining memoir with literary criticism, in Second Half First Drusilla Modjeska looks back on the experiences of the past thirty years which have shaped her writing, her reading and the way she has lived. From a childhood in England, growing up with a father she admired deeply but felt she never really knew, to her time as a young newly-wed, living with her husband in Papua New Guinea; arriving as a single woman in Sydney in the 1970s and building close friendships with writers such as Helen Garner, with whom she lived in the bookish ‘house on the corner', and the lovers who would – sometimes briefly – derail her, this new book by Drusilla Modjeska is an intensely personal and moving account of a truly examined life.
'In asking the candid questions that many women face: about love, marriage, the death of parents, growing older, the bonds of friendship and family, Drusilla Modjeska reassesses parts of her life, her work, her reading, the importance to her of writers such as Virginia Woolf and Simone de Beauvoir, among many others, to give us a memoir that is at once intellectually provocative and deeply personal, and the book that readers of Poppy, The Orchard and Stravinsky's Lunch have been waiting for.' (Publication summary)
'In 1968 Papua New Guinea is on the brink of independence, and everything is about to change. Amidst the turmoil filmmaker Leonard arrives from England with his Dutch wife, Rika, to study and film an isolated village high in The Mountains. The villagers' customs and art have been passed down through generations, and Rika is immediately struck by their paintings on a cloth made of bark.
'Rika and Leonard are also confronted with the new university in Moresby, where intellectual ambition and the idealism of youth are creating friction among locals such as Milton - a hot-headed young playwright - and visiting westerners, such as Martha, to whom Rika becomes close. But it is when Rika meets brothers Jacob and Aaron that all their lives are changed for ever.' (From the publisher's website.)