Please help me bring this project over the finish line! I'm in the last week of the campaign and kickstarter is all-or-nothing!
A lost manuscript of historical significance, The French Australian Connection is a true story written by my father of 1940's and 50's Melbourne, Paris and London, with many famous figures referenced in code. There's also a tale of his time in the first Australian Commandos which I want to weave into the beginning of his manuscript.
Think: John Le Carré meets A Moveable Feast but with an Australian twist on the London -France post-war experience. There's bohemian artists, mystery, history, War, and of course France...
I’m seeking your help to bring this beautiful and significant manuscript out of the State Library’s archives and into the public realm.
The manuscript needs research, transcription, and in some places, translation, before it can be presented to a publisher.
Your assistance can bring this precious archive into the digital realm!
The Book: The French Australian Connection (working title)
Would you like to read a first-hand account of a man who signed up for the first Australian Commandoes in 1941? Perhaps you’re more interested in details of post-war Paris when bohemian artists could get by on very little, Americans like George Whitman who set up a little bookstore that became Shakespeare and Co, on the banks of the Seine were flocking in on the GI Bill? My dad recorded an extraordinary amount about everyday encounters in France at that time.
Or perhaps you'd like an account of life on-board a ship from Australia to England in the 1940s, and what it was like for an Australian to arrive in post-war London with his ration books confiscated and nothing but some original Foujita paintings, to get him to Paris?
A true story chronicling WW2 in Australia, a six-week passenger ship to London in 1947, then life in France of the late 1940s and 1950’s, Denison Deasey’s memoir chronicles la vie boheme in France, including how an unlikely fishing village and a Villa in the South of France became an idyl for writers and artists in the late 1940s.
Learn about the eccentric hotel in Montparnasse which became “Little Australia” for a time, and how dad was arrested while living in the same hotel in 1951, mistaken for a defected member of the Cambridge Spy ring and almost shot in his underpants.
Denison brings an Australian eye to the post-war period in Europe. He was a fluent French- and German-speaker with long years living between England and Europe. He brings the rare combination of an Australian approach to life (an ease of connection with locals), fluent French and German, with a deep interest in the past and present of every location he visits.
Some of my father’s closest friendships were with historically-significant figures and now world-famous artists making their first forays into European life in the post-war period. His memoirs offer significant new material and insights into these figures.
To publish the material, I intend to combine his ten-page typed Commando memoir with the French-Australian memoir, as well as further material from his diaries, letters, and unpublished essays, which are held both in the library archives and our family collection.
The funds I raise on Kickstarter are integral to completing this work. In many places, the references still need research to decipher key figures mentioned in the work.
What’s needed most of all now is time with the library material: The remainder of the French-Australian memoir needs transcription, and, in some places translation.
His diaries and essays also need cross-referencing, transcription and professional translation, to add further depth to the memoir, particularly as some of the anecdotes and dialogue are in French.
To get the manuscript to a stage where it is ready for publication, it will need professional editing, proofreading, design, and printing.
Every single person who backs my project will receive backer-only updates as I work through the remainder of my father’s material.
I have no doubt there are still some significant discoveries to be made in my dad's written archives. All up, his papers measure 1.6 metres in height.
Who Am I
My name is Louisa Deasey, and Denison was my father. I’ve worked as a journalist, writer and editor for over twenty years. I've also authored two traditionally-published non-fiction books: Love & Other U-Turns (Allen and Unwin, 2010) and A Letter From Paris (Scribe, 2018).
Three years ago I found my father’s archives in the State Library Victoria. Since publication of A Letter From Paris (Scribe, 2018), which uses excerpts from his diaries, there has been significant interest from readers wanting to read my father's full French/Australian memoir.
My dream is to bring my late father's memoir out of the library and into the public realm as a book.
Who was Denison Deasey?
My father was born in 1920 and died in 1984. He was never famous, but he wrote a mass of material, some of it published or performed, about the times in which he lived. He also kept hundreds of letters and paper diaries, many of which have vital clues preserved in their pages: ticket stubs, photos, signed notes from prominent French, English, American or Australian artists. Because of their historical significance, his archives have been in the Australian manuscripts collection at the State Library Victoria since 1985.
Denison Deasey was also a member of one of the first Australian Commando companies to be formed in 1941. His diaries, letters and memoirs chronicle this time, including sign-up and training details, accounts of various members of his Company, and where and how they were posted in the Northern Territory.
After serving in the War, my father associated with a number of significant historical, artistic and literary figures in Melbourne, London and Paris of the 1940s and 1950s. His letters to, from and about them shed precious new insights into some of Australia’s most significant modern artists, their early life in Melbourne and their first forays in Europe.
- David and Arthur Boyd
- Albert Tucker
- Barry Humphries
- Vali Myers
- Moya Dyring
- Geoff and Ninette Dutton
- Sidney Nolan
- Adrian Lawlor
- Alister Kershaw
- David Strachan
- Inge Clendinnen
Other notable figures include:
- Jacques De La Rue (Parisian police inspector / Resistant / author: The Gestapo)
- Richard Aldington (English poet / author: Lawrence of Arabia)
- Dylan Thomas (English poet and playwright)
- Leonard Foujita (Japanese/French artist)
- Louis MacNeice (Irish / English poet and playwright)
- David (D.H) Lawrence (English author)
- Henry Williamson (author: Tarka The Otter)
- George Bailey (author: The Germans)
- Donald Maclean (Cambridge Spy ring)
Thank you for reading this far, I'm honoured that you'd consider backing my project and can't wait to share it with the world.
With your assistance, my dad's wild, true tale -- and a slice of history, with many never-before uncovered aspects -- can make its way out of the archives and into the world where everyone can read it as a published book.
Risks and challenges
The real risk is that this material will continue undiscovered in the Library and that I won't have the opportunity to consolidate the information I’ve uncovered from researching A Letter From Paris and weave it together with the archival material.
There’s also a risk that a traditional publisher won’t see the potential in this work because I’m unable to display it to them without completing the necessary research. In this case the world would miss out on an incredibly unique, relatable and fascinating true story from a significant era in history.
By adding further depth to the work with additional material from our home archives, I can act as both editor and writing mentor to my late father, with the unique perspective of having explored his archives in detail over three years, and knowing what needs to be added to the memoir for even more depth and relevance to a modern audience.
This is another challenge: to bring a 21st century eye and ear to the writing, to edit and expand my father’s work so that it will speak to a modern audience. I need to use the expanded archive material (diaries, letters) to deliver evocative insights into the realities of romance across countries and continents, the strong attachments and difficulties of family spread out by war and travel, the day-to-day struggles and delights of a young Australian following his dreams across Britain, Ireland and Europe, and to maintain my father’s unique writing voice while doing so.
As a twice published non-fiction author (A Letter From Paris, Scribe 2018 and Love & Other U-Turns, Allen & Unwin, 2010) I believe I've proven I have the skills necessary to overcome these challenges.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)