Xavier Herbert was born Alfred Jackson in Geraldton, Western Australia, in 1901. Herbert and his family moved to Fremantle when he was twelve. At the age of fourteen he started work in a chemist shop, while continuing at school, with the aim of becoming a pharmacist. He later moved to Melbourne after the First World War and studied medicine there.
He commenced his writing career while in Melbourne and published his first story in the Australian Journal in 1926 under the pseudonym 'Herbert Astor'. He then left Melbourne for Sydney and then Darwin where he worked as a railway fettler in the Rum Jungle area. He travelled to London in 1930 where he meet Sadie Norden who was later to become his wife. In the two years he spent there he wrote the first draft of Capricornia which, for a number of reasons, did not see print until 1938.
In the years that followed he wrote a lot but published little until the end of the 1950s. His major novel from this period, Poor Fellow My Country, won the Miles Franklin Award in 1975. At 1463 pages and 850,000 words it is one of the longest novels ever published in English.
Xavier Herbert died in 1984.
Seven Emus 1959
Soldiers' Women 1961
Poor Fellow My Country 1975
Short Story Collections
Larger than Life 1963
South of Capricornia 1990 - edited by Russell McDougall
Xavier Herbert 1992 - edited by Frances De Groen and Peter Pierce
Disturbing Element 1963 (autobiography)
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Last modified: October 1, 2001.