Aussie Voices: The Jerilderie Letter

Ned kelly portraitNed Kelly’s apotheosis was complete almost before he died, and so it’s interesting to read his own account of his life, complete with spelling mistakes and odd curse words, made genteel by time and distance. The Jerildere Letter was likely composed with the aid of Joe Byrne, but it is Kelly’s justification of his actions, and so it encapsulates how he wanted to be seen by other Australians.

The Jerilderie Letter, as an audiobook, is about forty minutes long. If that sample proves too brief for you, it was used as the source material for Our sunshine by Robert Drewe.  This was, in turn, the source material for the Heath Ledger movie Ned KellyI found Our Sunshine, with its slow, adjective-heavy style difficult to listen to after recording the Jerilderie Letter, so I’d advise trying one, then waiting a few weeks before sampling the other. Alternatively, the Library Service has an editted version for children, in both paper and audio CD formats.

The obvious question is “Hero or terrorist?”, but that’s a bit of a trite question. What I find more engrossing in the book is how Kelly justifies his actions to himself; how he constructs an internal heroic persona despite deeds he knows are horrific.

As a quick note, I recorded this book after a suggestion from a fellow Bookcoaster. The original thread is over here. This year I plan to, similarly, record a book chosen by the members of book coasters, so if you’d like to make suggestions, please comment.

In two weeks time: Twentieth Century Inventions, by George Sutherland. This is a train wreck of prognostication. Come see what happens when a highly esteemed technologist makes claims about the future of travel, war and domestic life.

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