Robert Manne on having cancer: ‘I am interested in why I felt no fear’

The prolific writer and commentator talks about his second cancer diagnosis and rethinking his relationship with hospitals and his own body

Robert Manne is one of Australia’s most distinguished intellectuals and a frequent participant in public debate. He has written on everything from asylum seekers to the Holocaust to Wikileaks to the Stolen Generation. Manne’s politics also famously shifted in the mid 1990s from the right wing to the left.

But one form Manne hasn’t explored yet is the personal essay. A throat cancer diagnosis – first in 2008, then again last year – has given him reams of new material and experiences to chew over. In an operation late last year, he lost his ability to smell and to talk without the aid of a device.

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