Author and human rights advocate, Arnold Zable speaks with Donna Ward about his new book The Fighter: A True Story. Henry Nissen was a champion boxer, the boy from Amess Street in working-class Carlton who fought his way up to beat some of the world’s best in the 1970s. Now he works on the Melbourne docks. But his real work is on the streets, giving the disaffected another chance.
So it’s come to this. Sixty-seven years old and he labours on the docks. Cropped grey-white beard, ex-boxer’s pug nose, he is wiry, rotund and short. His strength is sensed rather than seen, belied by age and excess weight. Vigour is the word. Henry Nissen exudes vigour. His life force is strong. It animates his gestures, powers his determined little walk.
Henry Nissen was a champion boxer, the boy from Amess Street in working-class Carlton who fought his way up to beat some of the world’s best in the 1970s. Now, he works on the Melbourne docks, loading and unloading, taking shifts as they come up. But his real work is on the streets. He’s in and out of police stations and courts giving character statements and providing support, working to give the disaffected another chance.
And all the while, in the background is the memory of another fighter, his mother—and her devastating decline into madness.
The Fighter is a moving and poetic portrait of a compassionate man, but also a window onto the unnoticed recesses of Melbourne.
‘A master storyteller.’
‘His ability to see the beauty in the ordinary in a world obsessed with the extraordinary informs every aspect of Zable’s writing.’
‘Arnold Zable is a writer who turns the unnoticed and the overlooked into something fine and lustrous.’