Spielvogel, Nathan

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SPIELVOGEL, NATHAN (1874–1956), Australian author. The son of a Galician immigrant who became a goldminer and storekeeper, Spielvogel was born in the gold-rush town of Ballarat, Victoria. He was raised in a warm, religious atmosphere and, despite the remoteness and isolation of his environment, always remained closely attached to Jewish tradition. Spielvogel gained distinction as one of the only Australian Jewish writers of the era. His first published work, a short story entitled "Mike Hardy's Folly," appeared in the Ballarat Courier (Dec. 22, 1894) and for the next sixty years he contributed to practically every Australian literary periodical and to the Jewish press. As a country schoolteacher, he traveled widely in the eastern Australian outback and also made a journey to London.

His recorded experiences were first serialized and then published in book form. Spielvogel's A Gumsucker on the Tramp (1906) was an early Australian best seller, some 20,000 copies appearing in several editions. Much of what he wrote about early Australian bush life is of historical interest and importance and in some instances is the only source of information. This is also the case with his descriptions of Jewish immigrant types arriving from England and Europe. Spielvogel portrayed their manner of work and trade and their synagogue, communal, and youth activities at the turn of the century. A limited edition of his prose and verse, Selected Short Stories of Nathan Spielvogel, was published in 1956. He was a close friend of many noted Melbourne artists and writers of his time, including Norman Lindsay. Spielvogel lived in Ballarat from 1924, serving as a school principal. He was a major influence in fostering a Jewish cultural presence in Australia at a time when the community was very small.


N. Spielvogel, in: Journal of the Australian Jewish Historical Society, 6 pt. 1 (Dec. 1964), 1–27 (autobiog., ed. by L.E. Fredman). add. bibliography: adb, 12, 36–37; H.L. Rubinstein, Australia i, 279–80, 440–41.

[Shmuel Gorr]