with Dymphna Cusack
"'You're not Sydney Wyborne, you're bloody Dymphna Cusack,' said Brian Penton when Dymphna Cusack walked into his office to claim co-authorship of Come in Spinner, winner of the Daily Telegraph prize novel competition.
"The redoubtable Brian Penton was not the only one to be shocked. Come in Spinner was too honest a picture by far for those who preferred not to see the prostitution and gambling, the rackets and black marketing and the whole sleazy sub-culture of vice that flourished side by side with patriotic dedication to the war effort.
"The book was a runaway best seller. It was published in Britain, the USA, and was translated into many European languages. Everyone was familiar with occupying armies, friendly or hostile and the social upheaval that accompanied them. The setting could not be more Australian, but the theme was universal and timeless and is still relevant today.
"Say No To Death, the elegiac, deeply moving story of a young woman stricken by tuberculosis that followed Come in Spinner shows the remarkable versatility of Dymphna Cusack's talent. It has survived to be reprinted time and again and has been the most widely read and translated of all her works. At the time it was a searing indictment of the treatment and care of T.B. victims and was instrumental in influencing New South Wales public health authorities to introduce new standards in treatment and prevention.
"By that time, however, Dymphna Cusack had left Australia to begin a new life. With her husband Norman Frechill she spent the next twenty years travelling through Europe and Asia. East or West, the Riviera or the Perfumed Hills of China, the setting made little difference to Dymphna. She could write anywhere and the stimulus of different cultures and expanding understanding of the common problems of all humanity deepened her natural sympathies and sharpened her perceptions. It was an enormously productive and rewardin time for her.
"Because Dymphna Cusack refused her publisher's request to write her autobiography, Norman Freehill, who has kown her longest over her writing life, interviewed her and from the results wrote this book. He has brought the experience of a lifetime's journalism to a labour of love - his account of Dymphna's life with him and the genesis of the works that have moved so many people to compassion and understanding and have won her an honoured place among the great writers that Australia has given the world."
First Paragraph from the Introduction:
This book would never have been written but for an accident to Dymphna in the Great Australian Bight during one of our world wanderings in 1964.
Strange that a book of this kind has been so tardy in making its first bow when Dymphna's position in Australian literature has been established since 1935 with her first three-act drama, Red Sky at Morning, heralded as the best play yet written in Australia, and her first novel, Jungfrau, runner-up for the Prior Prize in the same year, hailed by Frank Dalby Davison as breaking entirely new ground in Australian literature. 'Her work contains the most complete gallery of contemporary Australian characters from one end of the social gamut to the other,' Katherine Susannah Prichard wrote in a letter in 1968, and a year later, a national survey included her among 'the hundred opinionmakers of Australia'.
In the past twenty years her reputation has become international. When she was first published in England in 1951, distinguished English critics seeking to give some lead to readers of this purely Australian phenomenon linked her name with that of Dos Passos, Dickens and Hemingway. She has been likened to Sinclair Lewis, assured of the lasting power of Dickens, and hailed as possessing the popular appeal of Vicki Baum. Malaparte said of Come in 5pinner, translated into Italian, that it had the brilliancy and the astringency of Moravia, combined with literary merit and topical relevance.
From the Nelson hardback edition, 1975.
This page and its contents are copyright © 2002 by Perry Middlemiss, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.Return to Dymphna Cusack Page.
Last modified: February 13, 2002.