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y separately published work icon The Ballad of Desmond Kale single work   novel   historical fiction  
  • Author:agent Roger McDonald
Issue Details: First known date: 2005... 2005 The Ballad of Desmond Kale
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AbstractHistoryArchive Description

In the first days of British settlement in Australia, Desmond Kale, an Irish political prisoner, escapes and disappears beyond the colony line, where rumour says he is thriving.


  • Dedication: For Lorna Mcdonald with love and thanks for gifts of conversation, friendship, and example over a lifetime.

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

    • Milsons Point, North Sydney - Lane Cove area, Sydney Northern Suburbs, Sydney, New South Wales,: Vintage Australia , 2005 .
      image of person or book cover 4112270455138874650.jpg
      Extent: 638p.
      ISBN: 1741661145 (pbk.)
    • Sydney, New South Wales,: Knopf , 2005 .
      Extent: 638p.
      ISBN: 1741665167 (hbk.)

Works about this Work

y separately published work icon Postcolonial Heritage and Settler Well-Being : The Historical Fictions of Roger McDonald Christopher Lee , Amherst : Cambria Press , 2018 15395794 2018 multi chapter work criticism

'The Australian writer Roger McDonald is the author of ten novels, two novelisations from and for film scripts, two television scripts, one semi-fictionalised memoir, a collection of essays, and two volumes of poetry. His publication record spans half a century from the late 1960s up until the late teens with his tenth novel, A Sea Chase, published in 2017. His books have achieved a significant record in the Australian list of literary awards and he has gone close to breaking into the major international prizes that distinguish the transnational careers of other contemporary Australian writers such as Thomas Keneally, Peter Carey, David Malouf, and, more recently, Kate Grenville. McDonald’s work has been published in London and New York as well as in the key metropolitan markets of his native Australia, and it has been translated into Spanish, German, and Swedish. 1915, his first novel, was adapted into an Australian Broadcasting Commission television series, which was shown on Australian screens in the early 1980s and distributed internationally.

'McDonald writes about ordinary characters whose lives have often been overtaken by historical forces they do not understand and cannot control. These men and women are commonly defined by whom they know and what they do rather than through the display of extraordinary qualities of mind, sensibility, or virtue. McDonald often situates his characters’ within foundational Australian historical periods such as the convict period, frontier settlement, the development of the pastoral industry, the Great War, the Golden Age of Aviation, and the Second World War and its aftermath. This later post-war period saw the transformation of Anglo-Celtic Australia by waves of initially southern and eastern European migration, followed by Asian and indeed wider international migration. The emerging multicultural character of the country coincided with the decline of rural Australia and the pastoral industry as the preferred locations for representative Australian types and values. These events or periods are well entrenched within the public memory of a White Australia and that enables McDonald to explore his characters’ search for purpose and fulfillment within the mythological registers of his nation’s postcolonial history.

'This study focuses on the books (five novels and the fictionalised memoir) in which McDonald has decided to situate his characters’ search for purpose and well-being within the mythological registers of colonial history. It explores McDonald’s investments in story and his developments in idiom and literary form, as endeavors to engage a wider public in the problem of postcolonial settlement. The common narrative problem is the elusiveness of a condition of Being that is well settled in the web of social, cultural, and environmental connections that are necessary for dwelling. McDonald pursues the possibilities for a wider more satisfying sense of human connection but his representations of the common man under the conditions of postcolonial modernity never allow that to come easily.'

Source: Abstract.

Time for the Timeless Marc McEvoy , 2012 single work review
— Appears in: The Sydney Morning Herald , 9 January 2012; (p. 8-9)

— Review of The Vivisector Patrick White , 1970 single work novel ; Autumn Laing Alex Miller , 2011 single work novel ; The Slap Christos Tsiolkas , 2008 single work novel ; Ransom David Malouf , 2009 single work novel ; Caleb's Crossing : A Novel Geraldine Brooks , 2011 single work novel ; Bereft Chris Womersley , 2010 single work novel ; Cloudstreet Tim Winton , 1991 single work novel ; That Deadman Dance Kim Scott , 2010 single work novel ; The Secret River Kate Grenville , 2005 single work novel ; The Lieutenant Kate Grenville , 2008 single work novel ; Sarah Thornhill Kate Grenville , 2011 single work novel ; The Ballad of Desmond Kale Roger McDonald , 2005 single work novel ; Mr Darwin's Shooter Roger McDonald , 1998 single work novel
Archival Salvage : History’s Reef and the Wreck of the Historical Novel A. Frances Johnson , 2011 single work criticism
— Appears in: JASAL , Special Issue vol. 11 no. 1 2011; (p. 1-21)
'In recent years debates about the ethics of portraying Indigenous subjects and subject matter have almost been superseded by circular debates about 'true' Australian history and who has the right to tell it. This has been disappointing in a context of the morally and formally imaginative speculations of historians such as Tom Griffiths, Fiona Paisley, Stephen Kinnane and Greg Dening, and also in a context of Indigenous studies Professor Marcia Langton's evidently too-hopeful calls for the activation of a shared cultural space. But as this local debate has become more heated, more public, the oddest spectacle of all in recent years was the recent lambasting of historical novelists.

Novelist Kate Grenville was a particular target of attack. Notable historians such as Mark McKenna, John Hirst and Inga Clendinnen vociferously condemned dramatic accounts of the past as anachronistic, unethical and, most curious of all in relation to the fictioneer's job description, untrue. I revisit the 'history wars' stoush to argue that these historians overlooked the suasion of broader, local political battles to determine and culturally enshrine particular narratives of Australian pasts; I argue that they also eschewed the linguistic turn of postmodernism and the contributions made therein by prominent historical scholars in their own field such as Hayden White and Dominic LaCapra. The paper finally shows how Grenville, Kim Scott and other novelists have engaged with colonial archival materials, deploying particular narrative techniques that enable them to generate compelling postcolonial dramatisations of colonial pasts. (Author's abstract)
y separately published work icon Witnessing Australian Stories : History, Testimony and Memory in Contemporary Culture Kelly Jean Butler , Melbourne : 2010 6037495 2010 single work thesis

'This book is about how Australians have responded to stories about suffering and injustice in Australia, presented in a range of public media, including literature, history, films, and television. Those who have responded are both ordinary and prominent Australians–politicians, writers, and scholars. All have sought to come to terms with Australia's history by responding empathetically to stories of its marginalized citizens.

'Drawing upon international scholarship on collective memory, public history, testimony, and witnessing, this book represents a cultural history of contemporary Australia. It examines the forms of witnessing that dominated Australian public culture at the turn of the millennium. Since the late 1980s, witnessing has developed in Australia in response to the increasingly audible voices of indigenous peoples, migrants, and more recently, asylum seekers. As these voices became public, they posed a challenge not only to scholars and politicians, but also, most importantly, to ordinary citizens.

'When former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd delivered his historic apology to Australia's indigenous peoples in February 2008, he performed an act of collective witnessing that affirmed the testimony and experiences of Aboriginal Australians. The phenomenon of witnessing became crucial, not only to the recognition and reparation of past injustices, but to efforts to create a more cosmopolitan Australia in the present. This is a vital addition to Transactions critically acclaimed Memory and Narrative series.' (Publisher's blurb)

'Opportunistic Transpositions and Elisions' : Roger McDonald's The Ballad of Desmond Kale; or, the Fiction Question : Who Owns Stories? Katherine Bode , 2008 single work criticism
— Appears in: Antipodes , December vol. 22 no. 2 2008; (p. 89-95)
Using the relationship between history and fiction as a starting point, the essay first looks at constructions of nationhood and national identity, a 'fantasy of Australia as the site of a privileged and realised good'. 'In accepting and supporting the fantasy of Australia as quintessentially free and equal, such constructions of national identity camouflage, at the same time as they enable, the aggression to and rejection of the Other that underlies white Australian society, historicall and today' (89). Focussing on McDonald's Ballad of Desmond Kale, the essay explores the 'dark underbelly' of such constructions of nationhood in stories.
Pastoral Adventures Susan Wyndham , 2005 single work review
— Appears in: The Sydney Morning Herald , 5-6 November 2005; (p. 20-21)

— Review of The Ballad of Desmond Kale Roger McDonald , 2005 single work novel
Clambering on to the Sheep's Back Peter Pierce , 2005 single work review
— Appears in: The Age , 12 November 2005; (p. 27)

— Review of The Ballad of Desmond Kale Roger McDonald , 2005 single work novel
Free Radical James Bradley , 2005 single work review
— Appears in: The Bulletin , 8 November vol. 123 no. 6495 2005; (p. 92)

— Review of The Ballad of Desmond Kale Roger McDonald , 2005 single work novel
Wild and Woolly Adventure Yarn Keeps a Clipping Pace Stella Clarke , 2005 single work review
— Appears in: The Weekend Australian , 12-13 November 2005; (p. 10-11)

— Review of The Ballad of Desmond Kale Roger McDonald , 2005 single work novel
Rollicking Chase for Golden Fleece A. P. Riemer , 2005 single work review
— Appears in: The Sydney Morning Herald , 12-13 November 2005; (p. 19)

— Review of The Ballad of Desmond Kale Roger McDonald , 2005 single work novel
Ballad of Balancing Dreams Diane Stubbings , 2005 single work column
— Appears in: The Canberra Times , 3 December 2005; (p. 11-12)
Fifth Time Lucky Claire Sutherland , 2006 single work column
— Appears in: Herald Sun , 23 June 2006; (p. 37)
Award for Tale of Old Sydney Ray Chesterton , 2006 single work column
— Appears in: The Daily Telegraph , 23 June 2006; (p. 12)
Franklin Takes Literary Bridesmaid to Altar Murray Waldren , 2006 single work column
— Appears in: The Australian , 23 June 2006; (p. 5)
From Farming Wool to Weaving a Winning Tale Catherine Keenan , 2006 single work column
— Appears in: The Sydney Morning Herald , 23 June 2006; (p. 5)
Last amended 13 Jul 2021 10:52:33
  • New South Wales,
  • c
    United Kingdom (UK),
    Western Europe, Europe,
  • c
    Western Europe, Europe,
  • 1800-1899
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