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y separately published work icon On the Beach single work   novel   science fiction  
Issue Details: First known date: 1957... 1957 On the Beach
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AbstractHistoryArchive Description

'After the war is over, a radioactive cloud begins to sweep southwards on the winds, gradually poisoning everything in its path. An American submarine captain is among the survivors left sheltering in Australia, preparing with the locals for the inevitable. Despite his memories of his wife, he becomes close to a young woman struggling to accept the harsh realities of their situation. Then a faint Morse code signal is picked up, transmitting from the United States and the submarine must set sail through the bleak ocean to search for signs of life.'

Source: Publisher's blurb (2009 Vintage ed.).

Exhibitions

Adaptations

form y separately published work icon On the Beach John Paxton , ( dir. Stanley Kramer ) Los Angeles : Stanley Kramer Productions , 1959 Z1421090 1959 single work film/TV science fiction

Set five years in the future (in 1964), On the Beach explores the lives of several Australians and some crew members of an American submarine following a nuclear war that has wiped out the population of the northern hemisphere. The submarine finds temporary safe haven in Australia, where life as usual covers growing despair that the winds will inevitably spread radiation to the southern hemisphere, bringing about the end of mankind. The principal characters are the submarine's commander, Captain Dwight Towers, who is in denial about the loss of his wife and children in the holocaust; the careworn but gorgeous Australian woman, Moira Davidson, who begins to fall for him; Julian Osborne, a conscious-stricken scientist whose dream is to win the Australian Grand Prix automobile race; and Lt. Cmdr. Peter Holmes, who is as concerned about his wife and newborn child's future as his own. All cope with the inevitability of death in their own way, but also with love, dignity, and affection. When a Morse code signal is picked up from San Diego, the submarine travels back to the United States' west coast.

form y separately published work icon The Red Box Digby Rumsey , ( dir. Digby Rumsey ) United Kingdom (UK) : Auteur Films , 2000 19533427 2000 single work film/TV Described by the director as a 'millennial' adaptation of On the Beach, this short film sets actors against images of contemporary Australia.
form y separately published work icon On the Beach David Williamson , Bill Kerby , ( dir. Russell Mulcahy ) Australia : Southern Star Entertainment Edwards/Sullivan Productions , 2000 Z1606977 2000 single work film/TV science fiction

'Australia is the last place on earth still unaffected by the nuclear fallout of World War II. As the people of Melbourne await the deadly radiation clouds southerly drift, a few survivors from the northern hemisphere, including the US submarine SSN Charleston commanded by Lt. Commander Dwight Towers, make their way into the last safe port of call.'

Source: Screen Australia. (Sighted: 2/8/2012)

On the Beach Tommy Murphy , 2023 single work drama

'A small group of friends in Melbourne – some local, some survivors from the US Navy – are living out their eerily prosaic lives and loves in the wake of World War III. But when a mysterious distress call rings out across the Pacific Ocean, the characters are called to choose between duty to the ones they love and duty to the human race.'

Source: Sydney Theatre Company.

Notes

  • Epigraph: Stanzas from T. S. Eliot's 'The Hollow Men', including the final two lines:

    This is the way the world ends

    Not with a bang but a whimper.

Affiliation Notes

  • Preppers and Survivalism in the AustLit Database

    This work has been affiliated with the Preppers and Survivalism project due to its relationship to either prepping or prepper-inflected survivalism more generally, and contains one or more of the following:

    1. A strong belief in some imminent threat
    2. Taking active steps to prepare for that perceived threat

    • A range of activities not necessarily associated with ‘prepping’ take on new significance, when they are undertaken with the express purpose of preparing for and/or surviving perceived threats, e.g., gardening, abseiling.
    • The plausibility of the threat, and the relative “reasonable-ness” of the response, don’t affect this definition. E.g., if someone is worried about climate change and climate disasters, and they respond by moving from a riverbank location in Cairns, or to a highland region of New Zealand, this makes them a prepper. If someone else is worried about brainwashing rays from outer space, and they respond by making a tinfoil hat, that makes them a prepper. 

    3. A character or characters (or text) who self-identify as a ‘prepper’, or some synonymous/modified term: ‘financial preppers’, ‘weekend preppers’, ‘fitness preppers’, etc.

    As a tier two work, this text has been identified as key to prepping in a broader, more conceptual relationship. These texts have been classified as ‘key’ prepper-adjacent texts that are important to prepping, even if they themselves are not about prepping or do not include preppers. These texts have been identified in the database through various means such as interviews with preppers, scholarship on preppers, and online prepper forums.
     

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

    • Melbourne, Victoria,: Heinemann , 1957 .
      image of person or book cover 3868054090120247809.jpg
      This image has been sourced from online.
      Extent: 312p.
      Reprinted: 1959
    • London,
      c
      England,
      c
      c
      United Kingdom (UK),
      c
      Western Europe, Europe,
      :
      Heinemann ,
      1957 .
      image of person or book cover 563705891372233303.jpg
      Extent: 312p.
      Reprinted: 1957 , 1958 , 1959 , 1960
    • New York (City), New York (State),
      c
      United States of America (USA),
      c
      Americas,
      :
      Ballantine Books ,
      1957 .
      image of person or book cover 6700559523412637422.jpg
      This image has been sourced from online.
      Extent: 278p.
      Reprinted: 1974 , 1990 , 1997 , 1977
    • New York (City), New York (State),
      c
      United States of America (USA),
      c
      Americas,
      :
      William Morrow ,
      1957 .
      Extent: 320p.
      Reprinted: 1966 , 1969 , 1986
    • London,
      c
      England,
      c
      c
      United Kingdom (UK),
      c
      Western Europe, Europe,
      :
      Pan ,
      1966 .
      Extent: 266p.
      ISBN: 0330105701
    • London,
      c
      England,
      c
      c
      United Kingdom (UK),
      c
      Western Europe, Europe,
      :
      Heron Books ,
      1968 .
      Extent: 311p.
      Note/s:
      • Original illustrations by Charles Keeping.
    • Geneva,
      c
      Switzerland,
      c
      Western Europe, Europe,
      :
      Edito-Service ,
      1968 .
      Extent: 311p.
      Note/s:
      • Original illustrations by Charles Keeping.
    • Toronto, Ontario,
      c
      Canada,
      c
      Americas,
      :
      New York (City), New York (State),
      c
      United States of America (USA),
      c
      Americas,
      :
      Bantam Books ,
      1968 .
      Extent: 278p.
      Reprinted: 1972
    • c
      Canada,
      c
      Americas,
      :
      Heron Books ,
      1970-1979 .
      Extent: 312p.
      Note/s:
      • Published by arrangement with William Heinemann. Original illustrations by Charles Keeping.
    • Mattituck, New York (State),
      c
      United States of America (USA),
      c
      Americas,
      :
      Amereon House ,
      1970-1979 .
      Extent: 311p.
  • Appears in:
    y separately published work icon A Nevil Shute Omnibus Nevil Shute , London : Heinemann , 1973 Z1423366 1973 selected work novel London : Heinemann , 1973
    • Leicestershire,
      c
      England,
      c
      c
      United Kingdom (UK),
      c
      Western Europe, Europe,
      :
      Thorpe ,
      1984 .
      ISBN: 0708982328
    • Cutchogue, New York (State),
      c
      United States of America (USA),
      c
      Americas,
      :
      Buccaneer Books ,
      1985 .
      image of person or book cover 6205970397181412051.png
      This image has been sourced from online.
      Link: 18715416Access online Sighted: 26/02/2020
      Extent: 250p.
      ISBN: 0899683657
    • Melbourne, Victoria,: Dover , 1987 .
      image of person or book cover 1740847042708805567.jpg
      This image has been sourced from online.
      Extent: 100p.
    • Toronto, Ontario,
      c
      Canada,
      c
      Americas,
      :
      General Paperbacks ,
      1989 .
      image of person or book cover 1421845466146610508.jpg
      This image has been sourced from online.
      Extent: 266p.
      ISBN: 0773671943
    • London,
      c
      England,
      c
      c
      United Kingdom (UK),
      c
      Western Europe, Europe,
      :
      Mandarin ,
      1990 .
      image of person or book cover 6162010708602312781.jpg
      This image has been sourced from online.
      Extent: 320p.
      ISBN: 0749304081
  • Appears in:
    y separately published work icon A Town Like Alice ; The Far Country ; On the Beach Nevil Shute , London : Peerage Books , 1991 Z1423359 1991 selected work novel London : Peerage Books , 1991
    • Cutchogue, New York (State),
      c
      United States of America (USA),
      c
      Americas,
      :
      Lightyear Press ,
      1998 .
      image of person or book cover 1336902401979529361.jpg
      This image has been sourced from online.
      ISBN: 0899683657
    • Thirsk, Yorkshire,
      c
      England,
      c
      c
      United Kingdom (UK),
      c
      Western Europe, Europe,
      :
      House of Stratus ,
      2000 .
      image of person or book cover 2596708756747559262.jpg
      This image has been sourced from online.
      Extent: 296p.
      ISBN: 1842322761
    • London,
      c
      England,
      c
      c
      United Kingdom (UK),
      c
      Western Europe, Europe,
      :
      Vintage UK ,
      2009 .
      image of person or book cover 270668814685325555.jpg
      Image courtesy of publisher's website.
      Extent: 320p.p.
      Reprinted: 2010 (ebook)
      Note/s:
      • Published 1 December 2009 (paperback) and 1 July 2010 (ebook).
      ISBN: 9780099530251 (pbk), 9781409087397 (ebk)
    • New York (City), New York (State),
      c
      United States of America (USA),
      c
      Americas,
      :
      Vintage ,
      2010 .
      image of person or book cover 8224478027686371214.jpg
      This image has been sourced from online.
      Extent: 312p.
      ISBN: 9780307473998, 0307473996
      Series: y separately published work icon Vintage International New York (City) : Vintage , 1993- 19532994 1993 series - publisher novel

      'William Faulkner, Philip Roth, Alice Munro, Thomas Mann, Doris Lessing, Albert Camus, V.S. Naipaul, Gabriel García Márquez, Salman Rushdie, Joan Didion, and Cormac McCarthy, among many others: Vintage International is devoted to publishing the best writing of the past century from the world over. Offering both classic and modern fiction and literary nonfiction in elegant editions, Vintage International aims to provide readers with world-class writing that has stood the test of time and essential works by the preeminent authors of today.'

      Source: Vintage.

    • Melbourne, Victoria,: Text Publishing , 2019 .
      image of person or book cover 6116285226335380542.jpg
      Image courtesy of publisher's website.
      Extent: 352p.p.
      Note/s:
      • Published 3 December 2019.
      • Introduced by Gideon Haigh.
      ISBN: 9781922268327
      Series: y separately published work icon Text Classics Text Publishing (publisher), Melbourne : Text Publishing , 2012- Z1851461 2012 series - publisher novel 'Great books by great Australian storytellers.' (Text website.)
Alternative title: Ventetid
Language: Danish

Other Formats

  • Braille.
  • Sound recording.

Works about this Work

‘This Is the Way the World Ends’ : Nevil Shute’s On the Beach Warned Us of Nuclear Annihilation. It’s Still a Hot-button Issue Alexander Howard , 2023 single work essay
— Appears in: The Conversation , 19 July 2023; ABC News [Online] , July 2023;
What's So Cosy about Cosy Catastrophes? David F. Ellrod Sr , 2023 single work essay
— Appears in: Aurealis , no. 160 2023;
A Change in the Air : Literature, Bombs and Colonial Terror in Climate Literature Jack Kirne , 2022 single work criticism
— Appears in: Overland , Winter no. 247 2022; (p. 43-50)

'Reflecting on Hiroshima, 6 August 1945, Karen Barad writes :

'Time stopped. The internal mechanisms melted...Time died in a flash. Its demise captured in shadows: silhouettes of people, animals, plants, and objects, its last moment of existence emblazoned on walls. Never before was it possible to kill time, not like this. Atomic clocks. Doomsday clocks. The hands of time indeterminately positioned as creeping toward the midnight of human and more-than-human existence, moving, and no longer moving.' (Introduction)

On the Beach, Out of Apathy Chloe Ward , 2022 single work essay
— Appears in: Meanjin , June vol. 81 no. 2 2022; (p. 168-175) Meanjin Online 2022;
'I read Nevil Shute's 1957 bestseller 'On the Beach' in the early days of the pandemic. It seemed appropriate to the times. In the novel, Australia is a remote holdout against global collapse. The major and minor powers of the Northern Hemisphere have destroyed each other in 37 days of mutual nuclear attack. Now, particles of atomic dust released in the 'short war' creep below the equator, towards Australia's southern coastline and Melbourne, where the novel is set.' (Publication abstract)
Australian Science Fiction Colin Steele , 2020 single work review
— Appears in: SF Commentary , July vol. 102 no. 2020; (p. 102-109)

— Review of On the Beach Nevil Shute , 1957 single work novel ; Bruny Heather Rose , 2019 single work novel ; The Cruel Stars John Birmingham , 2019 single work novel ; Ghost Species James Bradley , 2020 single work novel
Book Packs a Bang as World Whimpers Robert Hefner , 2004 single work review
— Appears in: Canberra Sunday Times , 22 August 2004; (p. 19)

— Review of On the Beach Nevil Shute , 1957 single work novel
Reviewed Briefly 1957 single work review
— Appears in: The Bulletin , 25 September vol. 78 no. 4050 1957; (p. 59)

— Review of On the Beach Nevil Shute , 1957 single work novel
[Review] On the Beach 1957 single work review
— Appears in: New Republic , 12 August no. 137 1957; (p. 20)

— Review of On the Beach Nevil Shute , 1957 single work novel
[Review] On the Beach 1957 single work review
— Appears in: New York Herald Tribune Book Review , 28 July 1957; (p. 1)

— Review of On the Beach Nevil Shute , 1957 single work novel
[Review] On the Beach 1957 single work review
— Appears in: San Francisco Chronicle , 24 July 1957; (p. 19)

— Review of On the Beach Nevil Shute , 1957 single work novel
The Joy of Text Patti Miller , 2003 single work essay
— Appears in: Good Weekend , 26 July 2003; (p. 39, 41)
Miller discusses the pleasure she derives from reading. She cites a number of books that she has particularly enjoyed, including The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James as well as some works by Australian authors.
The Golden Age of Australian Science Fiction Sean McMullen , 1995 single work column
— Appears in: Science Fiction : A Review of Speculative Literature , vol. 12 no. 3 (Issue 36) 1995; (p. 3-28)
Solace by the Sea Fiona Capp , 2004 single work essay
— Appears in: The Age , 13 March 2004; (p. 8)
Shute the Messenger Gideon Haigh , 2007 single work criticism
— Appears in: The Monthly , June no. 24 2007; (p. 42-53)
'Yet 50 years ago this month, Shute published arguably Australia's most important novel - important in the sense of confronting a mass international audience with the defining issue of the age.' (Gideon Haigh)
Mr Shute's Apocalypse David Moody , 1959 single work
— Appears in: The Melbourne Critical Review , no. 2 1959; (p. 100-105)
Last amended 13 Feb 2024 12:23:47
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  • Melbourne, Victoria,
  • 1950s
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