'Some of the best, most significant writing produced in Australia over more than two centuries is gathered in this landmark anthology. Covering all genres - from fiction, poetry and drama to diaries, letters, essays and speeches - the anthology maps the development of one of the great literatures in English in all its energy and variety.
'The writing reflects the diverse experiences of Australians in their encounter with their extraordinary environment and with themselves. This is literature of struggle, conflict and creative survival. It is literature of lives lived at the extremes, of frontiers between cultures, of new dimensions of experience, where imagination expands.
'This rich, informative and entertaining collection charts the formation of an Australian voice that draws inventively on Indigenous words, migrant speech and slang, with a cheeky, subversive humour always to the fore. For the first time, Aboriginal writings are interleaved with other English-language writings throughout - from Bennelong's 1796 letter to the contemporary flowering of Indigenous fiction and poetry - setting up an exchange that reveals Australian history in stark new ways.
'From vivid settler accounts to haunting gothic tales, from raw protest to feisty urban satire and playful literary experiment, from passionate love poetry to moving memoir, the Macquarie PEN Anthology of Australian Literature reflects the creative eloquence of a society.
'Chosen by a team of expert editors, who have provided illuminating essays about their selections, and with more than 500 works from over 300 authors, it is an authoritative survey and a rich world of reading to be enjoyed.' (Publisher's blurb)
Allen and Unwin have a YouTube channel with a number of useful videos on the Anthology.
Launched in Sydney, New South Wales by Quentin Bryce, 30 July 2009. Followed by a celebratory event at Gleebooks, Glebe, New South Wales, 31 July 2009 and a one-day symposium, 'Australian Literary Futures', Dixson Room, State Library of NSW, 1 August 2009.
A letter written by Bennelong in 1796.
'I thought I would begin this talk about the power and purpose of literature by talking about my 1998 book Take Power. The title came from a Gurindji Elder while telling the story of the ten-year battle his people fought against Vestey’s, a British pastoral company that owned the Wave Hill pastoral property in the north-west of the Northern Territory, when in 1966, 200 Gurindji, the traditional landowners, walked off the cattle station where they worked on their stolen lands because of the harsh treatment they were receiving from the management of the pastoral property. Vincent Lingiari, who led his people off Wave Hill, said: ‘We can’t go back to that Vestey’s. Vestey’s been treating me like a walagu (dog). Make mefella worry.’ The Gurindji kept telling their story straight, and eventually they achieved land rights over part of their traditional lands.' (Introduction)
This essay 'seeks to find new ways to address Australian poetry, through the example of Michael Dransfield, a controversially significant poet.' (139)
'What is an anthology? The term comes from two Greek words meaning ‘flower’ and ‘collection’. Anthologies, then, are collections of what their editors think are the best examples of a particular art form, whether they are love poems, paintings of animals or great speeches. Since terms like ‘best’ and ‘greatest’ are highly subjective, especially when applied to literary works, an editor’s choice is never going to please everyone. There is always a tension, too, between what readers might expect to find in a particular anthology and its editor’s wish to not just repeat the obvious, but add a few surprises.' (Introduction)