In conversation with Robert Dessaix

Robert Dessaix will be in conversation with Andrew Leigh on his new book Abracadabra, which brings together, for the first time, talks he has given at literary festivals around Australia and overseas, along with a handful of short journalistic reflections on the quirkier sides to life. This thought-provoking, playful, gem of a book is the record of a life in words, part memoir and part engrossing collection of observations and ideas. Dessaix's pieces, including an overlooked short story ('not my usual genre, but [it] is also a performance, after all, a turn, a numéro, about love'), are the work of a conjurer whose words dazzle.

Teaching Russian language and literature for many years at ANU, Dessaix credits the Russian writer Nikolai Gogol as guiding him to find his voice, but he also credits Enid Blyton who allowed him to escape to the secret places children like to escape to. Abracadabra is brimming with the thoughtful, witty and humorous observations for which Dessaix is known, and proves, once again, that his way with words is equally magical on the stage as it is on the page.

Robert Dessaix is the recipient of the 2022 Australia Council Award for Lifetime Achievement in Literature, which acknowledges the achievements of eminent literary writers who have made an outstanding and sustained contribution to Australian literature.

Roberts most widely read books, all translated into several European languages, are his autobiography, A Mother's Disgrace, the novels, Night Letters and Corfu, and two collections of essays and short stories. His travel memoirs, Twilight of Love, grew out of a fascination with Russian literature, while Arabesques explores the life of the French writer André Gide. His memoir, meditations on love, friendship and mortality, What Days Are For, is set in a hospital ward after a heart attack. His last book, The Time of Our Lives, on growing older well, was published in October 2020.

Dr Andrew Leigh MP is the Federal Member for Fenner in the ACT. Before being elected in 2010, he was a Professor of Economics at the ANU. His latest book is What's the Worst That Could Happen? Existential Risk and Extreme Politics.

This event is in association with Harry Hartog Bookshop. Books will be available for purchase on the evening in the Cultural Centre foyer. Pre-event book signings will be available from 5.30pm, and available again after the event.


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A podcast will be made available after the event.