B. Wongar in the 1980s
B. Wongar (born in 1932 as Sreten Božić) is an Australian author of Serbian origin who writes chiefly on the fate of tribal people in Australia, the wildlife and the environment.
Wongar grew up in village Trešnjevica, near Aranđelovac, Serbia, then Yugoslavia, which he left in the 1950s. He spent some years in France as a refugee where he met Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, who encouraged him to write.
Božić arrived in Australia in 1960 and moved up north where he lived with tribal Aborigines for some years. The name Wongar was given to him by his tribal wife Dumala and her relatives. From Dumala he learned about Aboriginal poetry and their traditional way of life in the bush. His first book The Track to Bralgu was translated into French from the original manuscript and published in Les Temps Modernes (1976), a magazine which was edited by Sartre and de Beauvoir. When the book appeared in the English edition two years later (Little, Brown, USA), it heralded a new genre of creative writing and brought international fame to the author. In Australia however Wongar was criticized by some white people for his portrayal of the Aborigines and there was a campaign to discredit his work as "fake". He was not allowed to stay any longer in the Northern part of Australia and had to move to Melbourne. His wife Dumala and the children were to follow but they died from radioactive contamination left behind from Uranium mining, as claimed later in Dingoes Den, his autobiography.
While he was in the Northern part of Australia Wongar worked on his Totem and Ore photographic collection known also under the title Boomerang and Atom. The collection contained several thousand black-and-white photographs portraying the impact of uranium mining and the British nuclear testing on tribal Aborigines. In 1974 Wongar was asked to send some of the Totem and Ore photographs for an exhibition in the Parliament House Library in Canberra. The exhibition was banned by order of the Australian parliament only a few hours after the official opening.
Wongar settled on his bush property Dingo Den in Gippsland, south of Melbourne where, helped by photographic images from his Totem and Ore collection, he wrote the nuclear trilogy (novels: Walg, Karan and Gabo Djara. The trilogy was first published in Germany, translated from the original manuscript by Annemarie and Heinrich Boll. The English language edition first appeared in 1988. It was launched at the Aboriginal Research Centre, Monash University, where Wongar at the time was serving as writer-in-residence. While he was at work, police raided B Wongar's home at Dingo Den and took some of his work, including the sole copy of the manuscript of his new novel Raki. In 1990, the Australian author Thomas Shapcott spoke about the case at the opening of the Adelaide Arts Festival. He circulated a petition asking the state authorities to see that the confiscated manuscript Raki be returned to B.Wongar. About 200 writers at the festival signed the petition. It took Wongar about 5 years to write Raki again. This was followed by his new book Didjeridu Charmer, which will complete the nuclear cycle, thus making the series a quintet.
Works by B. Wongar
- Aboriginal Myths
- The Track to Bralgu
- Raki (1997), London: Marion Boyars ISBN 978-0-7145-3031-4
- The Last Pack of Dingoes
- Totem and Ore (2006), Dingo Books, Carnegie, Victoria 2006 ISBN 9780977507801
- The Sinners
- Dingoes Den(B. Wongar's autobiography)
- The New Guinea Diaries (1997) — English translation of the "The New Guinea Diaries 1871–1883" by Nicholas Miklouho-Maclay, Dingo Books, Victoria, Australia ISBN 978-0-9775078-1-8
- The Nuclear Cycle: Walg, Karan, Gabo Djara, Raki
- The American Library Association Award (USA) 1982
- Senior Australian Fellowship, Australian Literature Award, 1986
- The P.E.N International Award (USA) for Nuclear Cycle, 1986
- Emeritus Award for outstanding contribution to Australian Literature, Australian Council of the arts, 1997
- Honorary Doctorate, University of Kragujevac, Serbia, 2009
Appearances on television and film
- "Dingoes, Names and B. Wongar" – interview with Jan Wositzky, for ABC Radio National's 'Books and Writing' program
- Sorena Productions, Australia, Director/Writer John Mandelberg (1994) "A Double Life. The Life and Times of B.Wongar" 56-minute video documentary on his life.
- Počasni doktorat za srpskog Aboridžina. Blic.rs. Retrieved on 2012-02-01.
- New York Times Book Review, 25 June 1978
- Dingoes, Names and B. Wongar. abc.net.au
- "Cold War spy, the photographer, and hidden history from a big land", The Age, 11 November 2006
- Ross, Robert, “The track to Armageddon in B.Wongar’s Nuclear Trilogy,” World Literature Today, Winter 1990
- Pullan, Robert, "In Police Custody: 200 Pages of B. Wongar's novel", The Australian Author, Vol 21, No 4, Summer 1989/90
- David Matthews (University of Newcastle) B. Wongar (Sreten Bozic (1932–). (PDF) . wongar.com. Retrieved on 2012-02-01.
- http://www.wongar.com, personal site of B. Wongar