Nathan Hobby's The Red Witch is an absorbing tribute to literary giant Katharine Susannah Prichard

By Ian McFarlane
June 3 2022 - 2:00pm
Katharine in her sitting room, 1949. Picture: D.Glass, National Archives of Australia
  • The Red Witch: A Biography of Katharine Susannah Prichard, by Nathan Hobby. The Miegunyah Press, $49.99.

I suspect the 20th century struggle between capitalism and communism occupies little more than an academic footnote in today's crowded chaos. If we think about it at all, depending on our point of view, capitalism is either the economic engine of a technology-driven world or the elephant in the room regarding most of humanity's ills, while communism is either the remnants of an evil empire or a noble experiment that failed. Personally, I lean towards the latter view in both cases, which I will offer here as a confession in the face of Nathan Hobby's excellent biography of a significant presence in early Australian literature, and notably (given the gender politics of the time) a woman: Katharine Susannah Prichard, or KSP, as she became widely known. KSP was also a dedicated communist, but certainly not a witch.