- At the Barricades: The Memoirs of a Rebel Journalist by Wilfred Burchett
Quartet, 341 pp, £10.95, May 1981, ISBN 0 7043 2214 5
When Henry Kissinger was eating break-fast with Wilfred Burchett in the West Wing of the White House, he little knew that his guest had travelled ‘illegally’ to Washington. As an Australian whose government refused to issue him a passport, he was using North Vietnamese identity documents and was only authorised to circulate within 20 miles of the United Nations Headquarters in New York. During discussions on Vietnam and China, however, a friendly relationship was established between the two men, and the ever practical ‘rebel’ journalist left the White House, he says, ‘with three scoops in his pocket’ as well as private messages to deliver to the North Vietnamese Communist leaders. The incident is typical of many in the life of a man who has a flair for news and enormous personal courage, combined with a tough constitution and a willingness to endure acute personal discomfort. Unhappily, the rebel author has never learnt the art of diplomacy and at times has been as bitterly criticised by his erstwhile Communist friends as by members of the government which denied him a passport.