“WHERE DOES AN AUSTRALIAN-BORN JEW FIT INTO THE GRAND SCHEME OF THINGS? AND WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE JEWISH IN A SECULAR, SUPPOSEDLY EGALITARIAN SOCIETY?” Kim Forrester poses that question in her review of A Promised Land? (see below) but it seems an excellent remark with which to introduce Alan’s work.
SHORT STORY COLLECTIONS
Troubles, (Kingfisher Books, 1983). Foreword by Judah Waten. Now out of print but see below, new edition A Thousand Nights at the Ritz.
The short story writer in Australia has been, and thankfully still is, the close observer of the development of our country. From Henry Lawson to Hal Porter, it is the short story that has sometimes kindly and sometimes bitterly, recorded our social history.
“Alan Collins is a writer who has recorded movingly, the lives of Jews Without Money in Australia back in the pre-war years when he was growing up……For all the harsh behaviour, Alan Collins reveals he is anything but cynical or misanthropic. His collection of stories is often humorous as well as entertaining.” Judah Waten
Highly commended in the Victorian Fellowship of Australian Writers Alan Marshall Award.
A Thousand Nights at the Ritz, incorporating stories from Troubles and additional stories (Hybrid Publishers, 2010). With an Introduction by Arnold Zable.
“Alan Collins’ stories indicate the presence of a sharp-eyed social observer, a keen-eared listener, a writer with a lively grasp of the physical world and a rich sense of the absurdity of human behaviour.” Fay Zwicky
“Collins’s writing was driven by a lifelong hatred of injustice and racism, religious bigotry and conformity, and the humiliations that derive from privilege and class. He could not abide exploitation and inequality…” Arnold Zable
Reviews: A Thousand Nights at the Ritz
The Boys from Bondi (UQP, 1987) published as Jacob’s Ladder in the US in 1989. Now out of print but see below, the trilogy A Promised Land?
“This book is a kind of Australian psalm to life, sympathetic to all created things, including dogs. There’s humour, sensitivity and wisdom here.” Fay Zwicky at the launch.
“Collins brings to life a period when our changing society, while sheltering the dispossessed, allowed much ignorance and prejudice to flourish. We are moved by Jacob’s odyssey and simultaneously entertained by a rich cast of minor characters. Agnes Nieuwenhuizen in ‘The Age’.
Going Home (UQP, 1993). Now out of print but see below, the trilogy A Promised Land?
Set in Sydney and Palestine against the dramatic events of 1947, this memorable novel full of passion and humour, continues the odyssey of Jacob Kaiser. At odds with postwar Australian society, Jacob longs for the pioneering life in the emerging Jewish State of Israel. But Ruti, his childhood girlfriend, no longer seems to share such dreams. Eventually, someone very different joins Jacob in his search for fulfilment. Both joy and tragedy await Jacob as he is drawn into the terrible battles between Arab and Jew.
Joshua (UQP, 1995). Now out of print but see below, the trilogy A Promised Land?
It is 1967. The Vietnam War is at its height. Joshua and his father Jacob are committed pacifists. On Joshua’s twentieth birthday a chain of events is set in motion which leads him on a journey for identity. While being pursued by Federal Police and Israeli secret agents, he finds romance, friendship and, perhaps, peace. This is the third and final work in a trilogy beginning with The Boys from Bondi and followed by Going Home.
“A vivid recreation of the many-layered Jewish experience in Australia makes it required reading.” Margaret Dunkle, Australian Bookseller and Publisher.
“… an enlightening examination of displacement and the search for identity.” Stephen Matthews, Australian Book Review.
Audio editions of The Boys from Bondi, Going Home and Joshua were produced on cassette for the Braille Library. They were beautifully read by the well-known actor, Humphrey Bower. Time, I think, for them to be re-issued on CD.
A Promised Land? A trilogy of the three titles above published by UQP in 2001, 2008 and 2011)
Where does an Australian-born Jew fit into the grand scheme of things? And what does it mean to be Jewish in a secular,supposedly egalitarian society? In Jacob’s struggle to reconcile the Jewish and Gentile aspects of his life, we see that where we come from influences who we are and where we are going. In many ways this is a book as much about Australian identity as it is Jewish identity – and some of it, including the bigotry, prejudice and ignorance, makes for uncomfortable reading … Collins has an amazing gift for story-telling. And his prose has that old-fashioned effortlessness to it, which makes eating up the pages very easy. It’s the characters which really make this book, though. I loved them all … ” Kim Forrester at http://readingmattersblog.com/
“The moral of the story spanning three generations, many ideologies and a century of bloodshed is inspirational, funny, moving and sad. You too will find yourself voraciously flipping pages to find out what happens to the diverse range of quirky characters introduced. As an Australian text, it resonates with simplicity and heart, and is really the story of us all. Jason Jewell, Victorian Association for the Teaching of English.
Reviews: A Promised Land?
Alva’s Boy: An unsentimental memoir (Hybrid Publishers, 2008)
“I weighed up these women in my life and decided that none of them would fill the role of a mother. but then, what did I know about mothers anyway? … The short answer was nothing – bugger all.” Alva’s Boy.
“… this is a great read … both a memoir and a history … as the gathering clouds of war affected Australia. But it’s the interplay between cultures – Australian Jews and refugees, or Jews and non-Jews that, for me, had the biggest impact. This was a time of the ‘great awakening of Australia’. Collins describes a period that is as much a part of this nation’s history as Cook’s voyage of discovery or the arrival of the First Fleet.’ Barry O’Farrell at the launch.
Reviews: Alva’s Boy