Andrew Fabinyi

Cultural background: Hungarian

Place of origin: Hungary

Date of arrival: 1939

Andrew Fabinyi was born on 27 December 1908 in Budapest, son of Imre Fabinyi, lawyer, and his wife Margit, née Nagel. Andor was educated at Minta Gymnasium and Pazmany University. After graduating, he continued his studies part time and was awarded the Ph.D. for his thesis on the psychology of aesthetics. He worked at Lauffer’s Bookshop, Budapest, and in 1932 established an agency for the distribution of British books in Hungary.

Concerned at the spread of Nazism, Fabinyi obtained a visa to travel to New Zealand; sailing from Italy in the Viminale, he reached Melbourne on 17 July 1939. There his journey ended when he was offered employment by the Melbourne bookseller F. W. Cheshire. On 26 October that year he married a librarian Elisabeth Clare Robinson; they were to have five children. In 1954 he became the managing director of that publishing house.

He believed that a real publisher must be eclectic. Over the next twenty-five years his list covered poetry, such future Australian classics as Robin Boyd’s The Australian Ugliness (1960) and Alan Marshall’s I Can Jump Puddles (1955), novels by Xavier Herbert, Judah Waten, Joan Lindsay, Barry Oakley, David Martin and Kenneth Cook, non-fiction by Brian Fitzpatrick, Wilfred Burchett, Clive Turnbull and C. P. FitzGerald, studies of Asia by Australian diplomats, books on sculptors and artists and on the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria, literary criticism and agricultural science. He was particularly noted for his advocacy of Australian text books which before his time were exclusively imported from Britain. Working before the the period of established university presses, Fabinyi encouraged academic research and published the first works of many later well established social scientists. Gentle kind and knowledgeable, he encouraged the growth of an indigenous Australian culture. He was one of the last gentleman publishers, who delighted in spotting talent and believed in intellectual integrity. He served on many cultural bodies, and was president of the Australian Book Publishers Association. He introduced the Australian Book Week, a variant of the popular Hungarian Book Days of pre-WW2 times. In 1960 he received the O.B.E.

In recognition of his contribution to the work of libraries, he was given the L.A.A.’s Sir Redmond Barry award in 1974. Fabinyi further promoted the interests of the book and the book trade through articles in newspapers and journals, and in The Development of Australian Children’s Book Publishing (1971). He also wrote Living in Cities and Social and Cultural Issues of Migration, both published in 1970.

Fabinyi was president of the Victorian branch of the Australian Institute of International Affairs in 1966-70 and of the New South Wales branch in 1971-73. He held executive positions (from 1960) on the Committee for the Economic Development of Australia and served from 1966 on the national advisory committee (chairman 1973-77) of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. In 1971-73 he was a member of U.N.E.S.C.O.’s advisory committee on documentation. He enjoyed the associations he made and regarded the contacts provided as an essential part of the business of publishing.

He passed away in 1978. No Hungarian had a more decisive impact on the development of Australian intellectual life than Dr. Andrew Fabinyi, the publisher and journalist par excellence.