AustLit logo
image of person or book cover 428235416348082093.jpg
This image has been sourced from online.
y separately published work icon The Great Fire single work   novel  
Issue Details: First known date: 2003... 2003 The Great Fire
The material on this page is available to AustLit subscribers. If you are a subscriber or are from a subscribing organisation, please log in to gain full access. To explore options for subscribing to this unique teaching, research, and publishing resource for Australian culture and storytelling, please contact us or find out more.

AbstractHistoryArchive Description

'The year is 1947. The great fire of the Second World War has convulsed Europe and Asia. In its wake, Aldred Leith, an acclaimed hero of the conflict, has spent two years in China at work on an account of world-transforming change there. Son of a famed and sexually ruthless novelist, Leith begins to resist his own self-sufficiency, nurtured by war. Peter Exley, another veteran and an art historian by training, is prosecuting war crimes committed by the Japanese. Both men have narrowly escaped death in battle, and Leith saved Exley's life. The men have maintained long-distance friendship in a postwar loneliness that haunts them both, and which has swallowed Exley whole. Now in their thirties, with their youth behind them and their world in ruins, both must invent the future and retrieve a private humanity.

'Arriving in Occupied Japan to record the effects of the bomb at Hiroshima, Leith meets Benedict and Helen Driscoll, the Australian son and daughter of a tyrannical medical administrator. Benedict, at twenty, is doomed by a rare degenerative disease. Helen, still younger, is inseparable from her brother. Precocious, brilliant, sensitive, at home in the books they read together, these two have been, in Leith's words, delivered by literature. The young people capture Leith's sympathy; indeed, he finds himself struggling with his attraction to this girl whose feelings are as intense as his own and from whom he will soon be fatefully parted.'

Source: Publisher's blurb.

Notes

  • Dedication: For F. S.
  • Epigraph:
    Parce que, j'ai voulu te redire je t'aime
    Et que le mot fait mal quand il est dit sans toi. (Lois Aragon)

  • Listed in The New York Times Book Review's list of Notable Books for 2003.

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

    • New York (City), New York (State),
      c
      United States of America (USA),
      c
      Americas,
      :
      Farrar Straus and Giroux ,
      2003 .
      image of person or book cover 428235416348082093.jpg
      This image has been sourced from online.
      Extent: 278p.
      ISBN: 0374166447
    • London,
      c
      England,
      c
      c
      United Kingdom (UK),
      c
      Western Europe, Europe,
      :
      Virago ,
      2003 .
      image of person or book cover 4973667281788796498.jpg
      This image has been sourced from online.
      Extent: 314p.
      ISBN: 1844081397
Alternative title: Le grand incendie : roman
Language: French

Works about this Work

The Short Fiction of Shirley Hazzard Brigitta Olubas , 2017 single work essay
— Appears in: Southerly , vol. 77 no. 3 2017; (p. 20-25)

'Over a publishing career spanning a half-century from the early 1960s. Shirley Hazzard published four acclaimed novels: The Evening of the Holiday (1961), The Bay of Noon (1970), The Transit of Venus (1980) and The Great Fire (2003). These novels focus on the intertwined matter of low and loss: they rake her readers into complex moral territory, with the certainties and compulsions of sexual and romantic love tested throughout by individual vulnerability. At the same time, and much in the manner of novels written a century earlier, they take up what Harvard referred to as "public themes," that is, the substantial human matter of political and social life, played out against the backdrop of the globalising world of the second half of the twentieth century.' (Introduction)

The Event of Hiroshima in Australian Literature Brigitta Olubas , 2016 single work criticism
— Appears in: Antipodes , December vol. 30 no. 2 2016; (p. 256-270)

'This essay examines two very different Australian literary representations of the event and the site of Hiroshima Nam Les short story "Hiroshima" presents the time leading up to the American bombing of Hiroshima through the unknowing eyes of a child , who will witness the event in the final moments of the narrative. By contrast, Shirley Hazzard, in her fiction and her public writing, represents the period after the bombing through the eyes of Europeans—that is to say, Britons and Australian—visiting the ruined city, basing these observations on her oval experience of visiting the site in 1947. My interest in this essay is with the tensions between these two literary events, separated in time and cohering around a bleariest event that happens outside the frame of the narrative in both cases, and the ways they highlight some of the complications of national literary forms and representations. This point is compounded by the divergences between the two earth , both acclaimed in Australia and internationally. Nam Le arrived in Australia with his family as a child, a refugee, while Hazzard left at age sixteen and insists that she has no obvious or literal homeland. The work of both authors is characterised by global topographies and imaginings; however, Le tells us that the diverse locations of his fiction are based in research, while Hazzard's narratives are demonstrably based on her own experiences.' (Introduction)

The Mid-century Method of The Great Fire Claire Seiler , 2014 single work criticism
— Appears in: Shirley Hazzard : New Critical Essays 2014; (p. 97-110)
Branded by Fire : Postcolonial Naming in Shirley Hazzard's The Great Fire Christine De Vinne , 2014 single work criticism
— Appears in: Antipodes , December vol. 28 no. 2 2014; (p. 289-299, 535)
'The US edition of Shirley Hazzard's The Great Fire is spangled with flames and names. Despite its dramatic cover, Hazzard's novel has largely escaped critical attention. Although applauded for her profound sensitivity and emotional microscopy, Hazzard wins less acclaim than one might expect. Here, De Vinne examines Hazzard's The Great Fire.' (Publication summary)
Exile on Uranium Street: The Australian Nuclear Blues Robin Gerster , 2014 single work criticism
— Appears in: Southerly , vol. 74 no. 1 2014; (p. 55-70)
Venus in Transit John Banville , 2003 single work review
— Appears in: The New York Times Book Review , 12 October vol. 108 no. 41 2003; (p. 11)

— Review of The Great Fire Shirley Hazzard , 2003 single work novel
One Book a Week 2003 single work review
— Appears in: The Weekend Australian , 22-23 November 2003; (p. 10)

— Review of The Great Fire Shirley Hazzard , 2003 single work novel
Out of the Worldwide Blaze Thomas Mallon , 2003 single work review
— Appears in: The Australian Financial Review , 21 November 2003; (p. 10)

— Review of The Great Fire Shirley Hazzard , 2003 single work novel
Patchy Work With Hollow Cast of Players Neil Jillett , 2003 single work review
— Appears in: The Courier-Mail , 29 November 2003; (p. 6)

— Review of The Great Fire Shirley Hazzard , 2003 single work novel
Patchwork of Ambition on a Shaky Bed Neil Jillett , 2003 single work review
— Appears in: The Age , 29 November 2003; (p. 5) Creme de la Phlegm : Unforgettable Australian Reviews 2006; (p. 391-394)

— Review of The Great Fire Shirley Hazzard , 2003 single work novel
Love's Slow Burn Desmond O'Grady , 2003 single work biography
— Appears in: The Sydney Morning Herald , 15-16 November 2003; (p. 8-9)
US Fiction Award for Australian-Born Author 2003 single work column
— Appears in: The Age , 21 November 2003; (p. 4)
Orange for Girls Joan London , 2004 single work column
— Appears in: The Age , 20 March 2004; (p. 6)
Literary Names Give Award Fresh Life James Hall , 2004 single work column
— Appears in: The Australian , 30 April 2004; (p. 15)
War and Peace and Fire in her Blood Valerie Lawson , 2004 single work column
— Appears in: The Sydney Morning Herald , 18 June 2004; (p. 9)
Last amended 6 Aug 2015 07:45:04
Settings:
  • c
    Japan,
    c
    East Asia, South and East Asia, Asia,
  • Hiroshima, Honshu,
    c
    Japan,
    c
    East Asia, South and East Asia, Asia,
  • Hong Kong,
    c
    China,
    c
    East Asia, South and East Asia, Asia,
  • c
    China,
    c
    East Asia, South and East Asia, Asia,
  • c
    New Zealand,
    c
    Pacific Region,
  • c
    United Kingdom (UK),
    c
    Western Europe, Europe,
  • 1947
Newspapers:
    Powered by Trove
    X