The Life of Such is Life: A Cultural History of an Australian Classic
Since its publication in 1903, Joseph Furphy’s Such is Life has become established as an Australian classic. But which version of the novel is the authoritative text, and what does its history reveal about Australian cultural life?
From Furphy’s handwritten manuscript through numerous editions, a controversial abridgement for the British market (condemned by A.D. Hope as a “mutilation”), and periods of obscurity and rediscovery, the text has been reshaped and repackaged by many hands. Furphy’s first editors at the Bulletin diluted his socialist message and “corrected” his Australian slang to create a more marketable book. Later, literary players including Vance and Nettie Palmer, Miles Franklin, Kate Baker and Angus & Robertson all took an interest in how Furphy’s work should be published.
In a fascinating piece of literary detective work, Osborne traces the book’s journey and shows how economic and cultural forces helped to shape the novel we read today.
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- Literary studies
Roger Osborne is Senior Lecturer in English and Writing at James Cook University, Cairns.
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