Sparrow, Jeff 1969-
Sparrow, Jeff 1969-
Born 1969. Education: Earned Ph.D.
Home—Victoria, Australia. Office—Victoria University, P.O. Box 14428, Melbourne, Victoria 8001, Australia. E-mail—[email protected]
Writer and academic. Worked variously as a bookseller, health worker, and political activist; Victoria University, Footscray, Victoria, Australia, research fellow in the department of communication, culture and languages. Board member of OL Society, Small Press Underground Networking Community, and Literary Advisory Committee of Asialink.
(With Jill Sparrow) Radical Melbourne: A Secret History, Vulgar Press (Carlton North, Victoria, Australia), 2001.
(With Jill Sparrow) Radical Melbourne 2: The Enemy Within, Vulgar Press (Carlton North, Victoria, Australia), 2004.
Communism: A Love Story, Melbourne University Press (Carlton, Victoria, Australia), 2007.
Reviews editor of Overland magazine.
Jeff Sparrow is a writer and academic. Born in 1969, he went on to earn a Ph.D. Sparrow worked a number of jobs, including as a bookseller, a health worker, and a political activist. He also has served as a research fellow with the department of communication, culture and languages at Melbourne's Victoria University.
Sparrow published his first book, Radical Melbourne: A Secret History, in 2001 with Jill Sparrow. Sparrow published the book's sequel, Radical Melbourne 2: The Enemy Within, in 2004, again with Jill Sparrow. The book spans the period from 1940 to 2000, covering various aspects of the labor movement, human rights, and other antiestablishment movements as seen and experienced in Melbourne, Australia.
Cathy Brigden, writing in Labour History, commented that the book reminds "us vividly and evocatively about how academic debates about the centrality of space and place in the struggles between capital and labour are actually played out in daily life." Brigden recorded that the book does "far more than recount events of the past," adding that it stimulates "the imagination about the capacity for resistance." Brigden concluded that the book "should be read by a wide audience. In these conservative political times, these stories serve to remind us of the long and robust nature of radical activism in Australia. It is important to recognise and remember the enduring nature of struggle and radical activism, through the telling and re-telling and recovering these stories." Ian Morrison, writing in the Journal of Australian Studies, mentioned that the book "calls upon the reader to make their own sites historic. Everyone in the past was as confused and conflicted and busy with the minutiae of their lives as you are today. Their example shows that that is no excuse. Something can happen here. History is the past and the future, and it is now."
In 2007 Sparrow published Communism: A Love Story. The book outlines the biography of Guido Baracchi and the life he created for himself around Marxism. It also includes the history of the Communist Party of Australia, showing how Baracchi's political ideology and impact on Australian politics and national psyche was able to outlast the significance of the political party.
Deborah Jordan, writing on the Ruang-Baca Web site, described the book as "an engaging intervention into historical and literary global debates about love and activism, and is a new development in Australian biography," appending: "Written with an enviable talent for dramatic narrative, Sparrow will find a new generation of readers for the life story of this rebel and his commitment to an international/transnational/global movement: communism." Jordan concluded that "Communism is a remarkable achievement in illuminating the past passions for real socialism, especially given the past is so often aligned with Tradition." Simon Williams, writing in In Defense of Marxism, felt that "the defining moment of the book and of his life is the outbreak of the Russian Revolution," adding that "perhaps the most interesting sections of the book are those which detail Barrachi's growing disillusionment with Stalinism." On the other hand, Williams found that "the weakest part of the book recounts the post-war years," but conceded, that "this is a book which deserves a wide audience." Williams remarked that "by any standards, Barrachi led an interesting life. But the book is so much more than a gossipy biography," appending that "one of the fundamental questions it raises is the role of the individual in the revolutionary process." Williams concluded that "only when the working class has risen to power and destroyed oppression and exploitation will there be a fit time to write the epitaph of people like Guido Barrachi. Until such time we have Sparrow's book."
Alastair Davidson, writing in Arena Magazine, admitted that "Sparrow's very readable Communism set me rethinking the history of Australian communism." Davidson remarked, however: "I suddenly became alarmed that the book would be mistaken as something that explained what communism (after all, the constant ‘love’ of the title) was about; that the younger generation who have replaced ‘pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will’ by a wry cynicism masquerading as realism would think that telling Baracchi's story would throw light on Melbourne communism; that they even might think that what happened to him within the CPA told us in a sort of micro-history: what it had been all about before global capitalism triumphed and communism was dead." Davidson added, "My question to myself is whether any story of an individual does do those things and how." Davidson summarized: "Sparrow's narrow view, focussing on the experience of an individual in communism, cannot avoid bringing out that reality and privileging it. It was when the workerist ‘true blues’ took over from the Scots (Garden, Miles), Irish, and Canadians (Kavanagh), that a rampant Australian dislike of wanking intellectuals became clear. Baracchi was among its first victims." Rachel Power, who also reviewed the book in Arena Magazine, called Sparrow's effort "impassioned, witty, and moving," adding that it "makes a provocative argument" as to the future of Australian politics.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Arena Magazine, February 1, 2007, Rachel Power, review of Communism: A Love Story; October 1, 2007, Alastair Davidson, review of Communism.
Australian Historical Studies, October 1, 2002, Chris McConville, review of Radical Melbourne: A Secret History, p. 403.
Bulletin with Newsweek, February 27, 2007, Hall Greenland, review of Communism, p. 54.
Journal of Australian Studies, September 1, 2004, Ian Morrison, review of Radical Melbourne 2: The Enemy Within, p. 167.
Labour History, May, 2005, Cathy Brigden, review of Radical Melbourne 2.
In Defense of Marxism Web log,http://www.marxist.com/ (October 16, 2007), Simon Williams, review of Communism.
Ruang-Baca Web blog,http://ruang-baca.blogspot.com/ (October 14, 2007), Deborah Jordan, review of Communism.
Victoria University Web site,http://www.vu.edu.au/ (August 6, 2008), author profile.