Review of Peter Kelly, Buddha in a Bookshop
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Buddha in a Bookshop straddles several genres – biography, memoir, social history, literary criticism, philosophical rumination – and this is both its charm and the source of its limitations. The book has three governing purposes: to furnish an account of the life and work of the neglected Australian poet, Harold Stewart; to trace the trajectory of a small circle of Melbourne writers and thinkers who, under Stewart’s leadership, were influenced by the Traditionalist school associated with René Guénon, Ananda Coomaraswamy and Frithjof Schuon; and to provide an assessment of Traditionalism.
The bare bones of Stewart’s life: born in Sydney, 1916, attended Fort Street High and, briefly, Sydney University; moved to Melbourne, worked in Army Intelligence in World War 2; developed an early interest in Oriental art and poetry, and the ideas of Carl Jung and René Guénon; published his first collection of poetry in 1948; moved to Japan in the early 1960s, became a Shin Buddhist in Kyoto where he...