Though ironically, I am reminded of the fact that in 1997 Paul and I collaborated on the Report on Postcolonial Studies for the Australian Academy of the Humanities. I very much doubt that postcolonialism was any easier to define then than now nor that what mattered then as much as now was less what people felt it defined than that all agreed that it insisted on us embracing the full range of creative work that has made us ALL part of the diverse human condition, embracing not only nominal diversity but also the active promotion of a shared and equal humanity in and through the recognition of difference.
Thus Lydia Wevers’s Afterword also properly draws attention to the diversity of the material in the collection including Anne's essay on Jamaican Claude McKay and Diana Brydon's comparative study of the indigenous Canadian writer Tomson Highway and Australian indigenous writer Alexis Wright.
The collection also notes, with contributions from Diana Wood Conroy and others, that postcolonial societies embrace art forms beyond the verbal, notably dance, music and graphic art, but also in a way that our world often forgets material art forms such as textiles, weaving etc. Again this opens up our world in new ways.
But as the main spread of these essays focuses on literary texts and suggests there have been two primary areas of regional focus for Paul during his long and diverse career. The first is his unequalled criticism of Pacific culture and writing. The fact that one of Pacifica's greatest writers, Albert Wendt, had written so eloquently in the Foreword of how:
"From the late 1970s to now [Paul] has observed, studied, added to and promoted the growth, development and understanding of [Pacific] literature and through it out understanding of Oceania…"
is a testament to the unrivalled role he has played in our understanding of that region, so vital to our own place in the world when viewed through lenses not distorted by shortsighted ideas of economic and political advantage.
Sadly, as we are all too aware, it is such limited perspectives that too often justify the award of support in the academy and in the world it is suppose to lead and instruct.
I need make no mention of the most recent and blatant example of such unjustified and unscrupulous intervention into the processes of peer review that has been so broadly and widely condemned in recent months.
Paul's other great and continuing area of expertise and passion represented here is India. He continues to promote the literature and culture of that immense country, and especially his many connections with his beloved Calcutta and Bengal, connections that he has continued to actively pursue since his retirement to the great benefit of the University of which he remains a Senior Fellow.
Paul was awarded this [Senior Fellow] rank at a special event by the University he served so well and so long just after his retirement in 2017. Well deserved as this was it was also, dare one say, a little late given the range of his service and achievement.
But Paul, who remains an amazingly modest fella, no doubt is as aware as many of us that promotion is not always the mark of achievement as much as the mark of being noticed and, dare I say, too often of toeing the line.
One thing that came out of that late moment of recognition was that when I came down to help Paul celebrate it, I found my only surviving post-retirement suit had come down with the moth-hole syndrome. So I had to get one from David Jones...hence my present sartorial splendour, which, by a very diverse and winding route, brings me to the last of Paul's main areas of expertise...Australian literature.
As many of you know, as I speak he is finishing a major critical biography of the novelist and historian Tom Keneally. This will undoubtedly attract great public interest when it comes out and, like all of you, I am waiting for that moment eagerly.