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Xavier Herbert

1901 – 1984

Xavier Herbert (1901 –1984), author, was born Alfred Jackson to a single mother in Geraldton, WA. Leaving school early, he worked in miscellaneous jobs in WA and Victoria before moving to Sydney in 1926. There he published his first stories under the name of Herbert Astor. From 1927 to 1930 he lived in Darwin. He drew on his experiences there while writing his first book, Capricornia, in London in 1930-1932. Herbert stated that the working title of the novel, which at first, dealt mainly with inter-racial sexual relations, was Black Velvet. Broadened in scope, and titled Capricornia, it was published in 1938 and won the Commonwealth Prize for the ‘best Australian novel published or accepted for publication in the year 1937. He settled in Cairns in 1946. Having written little in the 1940s and 1950s, and his autobiography Disturbing Element in 1963, he made his name with Poor Fellow My Country (1975), which won the Miles Franklin Award and still holds the record for the longest Australian novel.

Updated 2018