April 2012

Encounters

Shane Maloney and Chris Grosz

Gough Whitlam & Enoch Powell

Words: Shane Maloney | Illustration: Chris Grosz
Words: Shane Maloney | Illustration: Chris Grosz

At the 1938 ceremony for the conferring of degrees in the Faculties of Arts and Law at the University of Sydney, the address was given by the newly appointed professor of Greek, Enoch Powell.

Although only 25, Powell came very well credentialled. The only son of ambitious schoolteacher parents, he was reading Ancient Greek by the age of five. An absolute swot, he’d gone on to master Platonic and Ionic, win a fellowship at Cambridge on the strength of his Thucydides, score a double-starred first in Latin and Greek and grow a moustache so as to convey an impression of his hero, Nietzsche.

The young professor’s students at Sydney included a 21-year-old graduate of Canberra Grammar named Gough Whitlam. Popular and outgoing, Gough was a flagrant classicist with an urge to burnish his erudition. But he also revelled in the social life of the university. The busy whirl of reviews, magazines and debates left him with little patience for the “dry as dust” lectures of a teacher “just out of nappies”, who was so pedantic he could make Herodotus sound boring, and so uncomfortable in the presence of women that he could scarcely look at them. Whitlam called him a “textual pervert” and dropped out of his classes.

For his part, Enoch rather liked teaching: “One gets into a didactic mode.” He assuaged the “heartache of exile” by producing a lexicon and dreaming of death in battle. Firmly anti-appeasement, he believed that war was inevitable and imminent and he was keen to do his bit. In June 1939, he resigned and returned to England.

Failing to die in the war, he decided on a political career and became the Conservative member for Wolverhampton. In a 1968 address to his constituents, he made an allusion to Virgil. Like the Roman, he foresaw “the River Tiber foaming with much blood” if coloured immigration was not curtailed. The Race Relations Act would give the black man the “whip hand” over the white man. Known forever after as the ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech, it got him sacked from the shadow cabinet and made him an instant martyr and arguably the most popular politician in the UK.

Powell returned to Australia in early 1974 for some television interviews. He used the opportunity to hector his former student for criticising the South African regime. Prime Minister Gough Whitlam did not deign to respond, in Ancient Greek or any other known language.

Shane Maloney and Chris Grosz

Shane Maloney is a writer and the author of the award-winning Murray Whelan series of crime novels. His 'Encounters', illustrated by Chris Grosz, have been published in a collection, Australian Encounters.

Chris Grosz is a book illustrator, painter and political cartoonist. He has illustrated newspapers and magazines such as the Age, the Bulletin and Time.

There is nowhere quite like The Monthly. We are told that we live in a time of diminished attention spans; a time where the 24-hour-news-cycle has produced a collective desire for hot takes and brief summaries of the news and ideas that effect us. But we don’t believe it. The need for considered, reflective, long-form journalism has never been greater, and for almost 20 years, that’s what The Monthly has offered, from some of our finest writers.

That kind of quality writing costs money, and requires the support of our readers. Your subscription to The Monthly allows us to be the home for the best, most considered, most substantial perspectives on the state of the world. It’s Australia’s only current affairs magazine, an indispensable home for cultural commentary, criticism and reviews, and home to personal and reflective essays that celebrate and elevate our humanity.

The Monthly doesn’t just comment on our culture, our society and our politics: it shapes it. And your subscription makes you part of that.

Select your digital subscription

Month selector

From the front page

Osamah Sami with members of his local mosque

In ‘House of Gods’, Sydney’s Muslim community gets to be complicated

Plus, Barnaby Joyce shines in ‘Nemesis’, Emma Seligman and Rachel Sennott deliver ‘Bottoms’, and Chloë Sevigny and Molly Ringwald step up for ‘Feud: Capote vs. The Swans’.

U2 performing in the Las Vegas Sphere

Where the feats have no name: ‘U2:UV’ at Sphere

It’s no surprise it took U2 to launch post-stadium rock via a spectacular immersive show within the technical marvel of Las Vegas’s newest venue

Grace Tame running in the 2023 Bruny Island Ultra Marathon

Running out of trouble

How long-distance running changed the life of the former Australian of the Year (and earnt her a record win in an ultramarathon)

Illustration by Jeff Fisher

Might as well face it

Lively discussions take place around the country every week on ethical non-monogamy, love addiction and how much sex is too much

In This Issue

JB East's 1834 portrait of Billy Blue. Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW.

A Ferry into the Past

The Story of Billy Blue

Scene from a public school, circa 1978. © Newspix/News Limited

Across the Great Divide

Public versus Private Schools

Jose Ramos-Horta with school students in Ermera, Timor-Leste, March 2012. © Beawitharta/Reuters

Autumn of the Patriarch

Four Days with José Ramos-Horta

Malcolm Turnbull, Sydney, March 2012. © Julia Kingma

One morning with Malcolm Turnbull

On life in politics


More in Encounters

Words: Shane Maloney | Illustration: Chris Grosz

Rupert Murdoch & Kamahl

Mark Oliphant & J Robert Oppenheimer

John Monash & King George V

John Howard & Uri Geller


Online latest

Osamah Sami with members of his local mosque

In ‘House of Gods’, Sydney’s Muslim community gets to be complicated

Plus, Barnaby Joyce shines in ‘Nemesis’, Emma Seligman and Rachel Sennott deliver ‘Bottoms’, and Chloë Sevigny and Molly Ringwald step up for ‘Feud: Capote vs. The Swans’.

International Film Festival Rotterdam highlights

Films from Iran, Ukraine and Bundaberg were deserving winners at this year’s festival

Two women on a train smile and shake hands

‘Expats’ drills down on Hong Kong’s class divide

Plus, Netflix swallows Trent Dalton, Deborah Mailman remains in ‘Total Control’ and ‘Vanderpump Rules’ returns for another season

Image of a man playing music using electronics and the kora (West African harp)

Three overlooked albums of spiritual jazz from 2023

Recent releases by kora player John Haycock, trumpeter Matthew Halsall and 14-piece jazz ensemble Ancient Infinity Orchestra feel like a refuge from reality