The many transformations of Albert Facey

Nile, Richard, and Murphy, Ffion (2016) The many transformations of Albert Facey. M/C Journal, 19 (4).

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In the last months of his life, 86-year-old Albert Facey became a best-selling author and revered cultural figure following the publication of his autobiography, A Fortunate Life. Released on Anzac Day 1981, it was praised for its "plain, unembellished, utterly sincere and un-self-pitying account of the privations of childhood and youth" (Semmler) and "extremely powerful description of Gallipoli" (Dutton 16). Within weeks, critic Nancy Keesing declared it an "Enduring Classic." Within six months, it was announced as the winner of two prestigious non-fiction awards, with judges acknowledging Facey's "extraordinary memory" and "ability to describe scenes and characters with great precision" ("NBC" 4).

A Fortunate Life also transformed the fortunes of its publisher. Founded in 1976 as an independent, not-for-profit publishing house, Fremantle Arts Centre Press (FACP) might have been expected, given the Australian average, to survive for just a few years. Former managing editor Ray Coffey attributes the Press's ongoing viability, in no small measure, to Facey's success (King 29). Along with Wendy Jenkins, Coffey edited Facey's manuscript through to publication; only five months after its release, with demand outstripping the capabilities, FACP licensed Penguin to take over the book's production and distribution. Adaptations soon followed. In 1984, Kerry Packer's PBL launched a prospectus for a mini-series, which raised a record $6.3 million (PBL 7–8). Aired in 1986 with a high-rating documentary called The Facey Phenomenon, the series became the most watched television event of the year (Lucas). Syndication of chapters to national and regional newspapers, stage and radio productions, audio- and e-books, abridged editions for young readers, and inclusion on secondary school curricula extended the range and influence of Facey's life writing. Recently, an option was taken out for a new television series (Fraser).

Item ID: 46036
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1441-2616
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Date Deposited: 13 Oct 2016 04:00
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