Dr David Malouf AO

Mr Chancellor, 

Queensland, and Brisbane in particular, have never been celebrated more lyrically than by one of this University's graduates, David Malouf. Brisbane, he once said in an address, is 'all gullies and sudden vistas ... a city that tires the legs and demands a certain sort of breath'. That landscape and the kinds of thinking and imagining it encourages can be found in some of his poems, short stories, autobiographical reminiscences, and novels. 

David Malouf was graduated from this University with First-class Honours in English Language and Literature in 1955. After graduation he served as a junior lecturer in the Department of English, before leaving Australia for Europe in 1957. After several years in · Europe and-Australia, working as a teacher and lecturer, he became a full-time writer in 1977.

o the Selected Poems published earlier this year-are magically evocative of Brisbane, of decades of warfare in Europe, and of relatives and friends, all seen with the penetrating insights of an observant poet. 

His first novel, the semi-autobiographical Johnno, has been a bestseller for the University of Queensland Press. Re-creating a sub-tropical Brisbane of the 1940s and 1950s, it deals in part with the postcolonial problem of establishing a sense of habitation to overcome the lingering sense of being peripheral to imperial interests.

Three years later, in 1978, he produced An Imaginary Life, centred on the exile of the Roman poet Ovid, but taking up, with great elegance and lyrical wonderment, the problem of re-creating one's life after rejection and exile. 

The short novels of 1982, Fly Away Peter and Child's Play, represent two extremes of Malouf's achievement. In the first, he reinterprets the Anzac legend in terms of a preference for Australia over Europe. In Child's Play he explores the boundaries between life and art in terms of a terrorist seeking to kill a famous author who has already, in fiction, anticipated his actions. 

Harland's Half Acre of 1984 and The Great World of 1990 provide extensive treatment of Malouf's central ideas: the interrelationship between spatial and poetic experience; the processes of imagining oneself and others; and the creation of perceptions of Australia's culture. 

David Malouf has also produced a collection of short stories-Antipodes, published in 1985; a volume of partly autobiographical essays -12 Edmondstone Street, published in 1985; a play -Blood Relations, published in 1988; and the libretto of the opera based on Patrick White's novel, Voss. More recently he has produced the libretto for another opera, La Mer de glace. 

Almost all his books have won awards of great prestige.Neighbours in a Thicket, for instance, won for him the Grace Leven Poetry Prize and the Australian Literature Society's Gold Medal in 1974; Fly Away Peter won the Age book of the Year Award in 1982; Antipodes won the Victorian Premier's Literary Award in 1985; and The Great World won the Miles Franklin Award earlier this year and very recently the Commonwealth Writers' Prize. Other honours have included an award in the Order of Australia and an Honorary Fellowship of the Australian Academy of the Humanities. 

Mr Chancellor, for his imaginative writing in a variety of genres, especially poetry and fiction, his contributions to the understanding of Australian culture, and his never-failing willingness to help the cause of education, I present to you David George Joseph Malouf, Officer of the Order of Australia, Bachelor of Arts of the University of Queensland, Honorary Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities, for the conferral of the degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, to which he has been admitted by the Senate of the University. 


UQ Alumnus of the Year (created by Alumni Friends)
Doctor of Letters honoris causa


Bachelor of Arts
Doctor of Letters honoris causa