Coming up: at
The Wheeler Centre

See all events »
Vpla_banner

'An Eye for Eternity: The Life of Manning Clark'

by Mark McKenna

This comprehensive biography of one of Australia’s most controversial and influential cultural figures, historian Manning Clark, was seven years in the making. Respected historian Mark McKenna takes a complex, enquiring and energetic approach to his subject, taking nothing for granted and delving clear-eyed into the many myths (most of them self-created) surrounding this polarising figure.

An Eye for Eternity is a sweeping account of Clark’s friendships and feuds; his dynamic, incident-filled marriage to the stalwart Dymphna; his politics; and his work, particularly the charismatic but deeply flawed multi-volume History of Australia, which captured the popular Australian imagination, despite its many errors.

Lively, scrupulous and questing, this is a major achievement; a book that captures an eventful period in Australia’s cultural life, both ambitious and eminently readable.

Mark McKenna - Portrait

About Mark McKenna

Mark McKenna is one of Australia’s leading historians. A research fellow in history at the University of Sydney, he is the author of several prize-winning books, including Looking for Blackfellas’ Point: An Australian History of Place, which won the Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-Fiction and Book of the Year in the 2003 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards. His essays and articles have been widely published in Australia and overseas. An Eye for Eternity was seven years in the making, making it his most ambitious project to date.

An Eye for Eternity: The Life of Manning Clark - Cover

Further Reading

Review by Ross Fitzgerald in The Australian

Review by John Hirst in The Monthly

Video of Mark McKenna in discussion with Michael Cathcart at the Wheeler Centre

Podcast of Mark McKenna in conversation with Richard Fidler on ABC Radio Brisbane

People's Choice

Have your say: vote for your favourite of the shortlisted books.

Vote now

Judge's Report

Honest yet compassionate, An Eye for Eternity provides exceptional insight into Manning Clark’s personality, his work and his partnership with Dymphna. Mark McKenna gives us Clark’s life in parallel with Australia’s intellectual life, and the quest of his generation for a national identity. The book never indulges in pieties, nor in digression for its own sake. Above all, it is clear-sighted: never sentimental, yet generous. An Eye for Eternity is a work of great scholarship, insight and eloquence, ranking with the finest Australian intellectual biographies.

Book Review

This biography of Manning Clark has it all. It tells the story of this ubiquitous historian with all his talents and inconsistencies. Clark’s relationship with his parents, his marriage to Dymphna (and his use of her as a resource), his desire to become a writer and a Catholic, his fascination with the Soviet Union and his conviction to an Australian culture (and getting us over our cringe), are all covered in this work.

The book is titled An Eye for Eternity, which alludes to Clark’s egoistic need for immortality both in the academic and literal sense, but I did wonder if a better title would have been ‘Between Certainty and Doubt’. McKenna states that Clark “… lived in the space between certainty and doubt” and that really is the crux of his story. Clark was a complex man who struggled to achieve his goals and did so only at the expense of those around him. I kept asking myself when reading the book: do we forgive great men their weakness and follies? I am inclined not too.

One of the strengths of McKenna’s book is he makes no judgement. Ultimately however it is a biography of Clark: McKenna is at his best when he imagines Clark’s thoughts and motivations, making this book both a good history and an insightful examination of a mercurial man.

This review is by Victoria Mathews of Hastings Library/Mornington Peninsula Libraries

Your Review

Preview or

The Premier's 21

Fiction

Fiction_bright_and_distand_shores_dominic_smith_size2
Fiction_when_colts_ran_roger_mcdonald_size2
Fiction_five_bells_gail_jones_size2
Fiction_the_roving_party_rohan_wilson_size2
Fiction_the_amateur_science_of_love_craig_sherborne_size2
Fiction_that-deadman-dance_kim-scott_size2

Non-fiction

Non_fiction_a_private_empire_stephen_foster_size2
Non_fiction_an_eye_for_eternity_mark_mckenna_size2
Non_fiction_into_the_woods_anna_krien_size2
Non_fiction_good_living_street_tim_bonyhady_size2
Non_fiction_delustions_of_gender_cordelia_fine_size2
Non_fiction_my_blood_s_country_fiona_capp_size2

Young adult

Young_adult_graffiti_moon_cath_crowley_size2
Young_adult__the_life_of_a_teenage_body-snatcher_doug_macleod_size2
Young_adult_the_three_loves_of_persimmon_cassandra_golds_size2

Poetry

Poetry_the_taste_of_river_water_cate_kennedy_size2
Poetry_this_floating_world_libby_hart_size2
Poetry_swallow_claire_potter_size2

Drama

Sappho_size2
Drama_intimacy_raimondo_cortese_sm_size2
Drama_do-not-go-gentle_patricia-cornelius_sm2_size2

Privacy Policy|Community Guidelines | Site by Inventive Labs.