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Xavier Herbert Xavier Herbert i(A19161 works by) (birth name: Alfred Jackson) (a.k.a. Alfred Francis Xavier Herbert; A. X. Herbert)
Also writes as: E. Norden ; Alfred Jackson ; Herbert Astor
Born: Established: 15 May 1901 Geraldton, Geraldton area, Dongara - Geraldton - Northampton area, Southwest Western Australia, Western Australia, ; Died: Ceased: 10 Nov 1984 Alice Springs, Southern Northern Territory, Northern Territory,
Gender: Male
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BiographyHistory

In 1912, Herbert's family moved from Geraldton to Fremantle and Xavier Herbert began working in a chemist shop while continuing his schooling. Following World War I, and after qualifying as a pharmacist, Herbert moved to Melbourne to study medicine. He studied medicine for one year and worked as a dispenser in a hospital. In 1926 he moved to Sydney before travelling further north, giving up his pharmaceutical and medical careers. In 1927 he was in Darwin, working as a railway fetter. When Herbert left for England in 1930, he had already published a number of short stories, indicating the direction his life was to take.

Herbert wrote a novel, Black Velvet, on the journey to England, but it was considered too coarse by English publishers. In 1931 he met Sadie Norden who encouraged him to pursue his writing and became his wife two years later. In 1932 Herbert completed the novel, Capricornia, but it was rejected by English publishers as too long. Herbert returned to Australia that year, bringing the manuscript with him. After some shortening and revision it was eventually published in 1938. Capricornia received a number of awards and remains Herbert's most admired work. It was first received primarily as a social protest against the treatment of Aboriginal Australians by European Australians, but later critics revealed the technical brilliance of the narrative. Herbert spent the next fifty years trying to write another comparable novel. After a number of failures, he published Poor Fellow My Country to great acclaim in 1978.

Herbert became a vocal supporter of the Land Rights Movement in the 1970s, reflecting the affection for and understanding of Aboriginal Australians that he had developed in his youth and travels. In the early 1980s after rejecting the award of AO because of his republican leanings, he began work on another novel that was meant to continue the criticism of Australian society that his two famous novels had begun. On a writing trip to Alice Springs the ageing and frail Herbert became ill. He died there in November 1984.

Most Referenced Works

Awards for Works

Capricornia : A Novel 1938 single work novel

Arriving in Capricornia (a fictional name for the Northern Territory) in 1904 with his brother Oscar, Mark Shillingworth soon becomes part of the flotsam and jetsam of Port Zodiac (Darwin) society. Dismissed from the public service for drunkenness, Mark forms a brief relationship with an Aboriginal woman and fathers a son, whom he deserts and who acquires the name of Naw-Nim (no-name). After killing a Chinese shopkeeper, Norman disappears from view until the second half of the novel.

Oscar, the respectable contrast to Mark, marries and tries to establish himself on a Capricornian cattle station, Red Ochre, but is deserted by his wife and eventually returns for a time to Batman (Melbourne), accompanied by his daughter Marigold and foster son Norman, who has been sent to him after Mark's desertion.

Oscar rejects the plea of a former employee, Peter Differ, to see to the welfare of his daughter Constance; Constance Differ is placed under the 'protection' of Humboldt Lace, a Protector of Aborigines, who seduces her and then marries her off to another man of Aboriginal descent. Forced into prostitution, Constance is dying of consumption when discovered by a railway fitter, Tim O'Cannon, who will take care of Constance's daughter, Tocky, until his own death in a train accident.
Hearing news in 1928 of an economic boom in Capricornia, Oscar returns to his station, where he is joined by Marigold and Norman, who has grown to manhood believing himself to be the son of a Javanese princess and a solider killed in the First World War. Soon after, he discovers his mother was an Aboriginal woman, and meets his father, with whom he will not reconcile until later in the novel. Norman then goes on a series of journeys to discover his true, Aboriginal self. On the second of these journeys, he meets and wanders in the wilderness with Tocky, who has escaped from the mission station to which she was sent after the death of O'Cannon. During this passage, she kills a man in self-defense, which leads to Norman's being accused of murder, at the same time his father is prosecuted for the death of the Chinese shopkeeper. At the end of the novel they are both acquitted, Heather and Mark are married, and Norman returns to Red Ochre, where he finds the body of Tocky and their child in a water tank in which she had taken refuge from the authorities. (Source: Oxford Companion to Australian Literature)

1939 winner ASAL Awards ALS Gold Medal
1938 winner Sesquicentenary Literature Prize
Last amended 10 Apr 2014 15:59:19
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