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.
Arnold Zable is a highly acclaimed novelist, storyteller, educator and human rights advocate. His books include Jewels and Ashes, The Fig Tree, Café Scheherazade, Scraps of Heaven, Sea of Many Returns and Violin Lessons. He lives in Melbourne.
'Written in Zable's lyrical style, The Fighter reads like a novel. The text provides many aesthetic pleasures; it also has heart and soul. This is an excellent addition to the literature on the survivors of war, focussing on the grief their families inherit.' Books + Publishing
'A master storyteller.' Australian Book Review
'His ability to see the beauty in the ordinary in a world obsessed with the extraordinary informs every aspect of Zable's writing.' Australian
'Arnold Zable is a writer who turns the unnoticed and the overlooked into something fine and lustrous.' Courier-Mail
'Arnold Zable is a long-distance athlete among novelists, and his command of his material is superb...Years of reflection and his own life experiences have contributed to the mastery with which Zable explores the themes of displacement, loss, nostalgia and homecoming in all of his books.' Canberra Times
'Arnold Zable performs his own masterclass in literary shadowboxing in The Fighter...[He] has a superb eye for detail and it serves the narrative exceptionally well...Zable channels the story of an ordinary man, a good man, who, to this day, is still winning on points.' Saturday Paper
'[Zable] takes the art of the novel—the attention to tone, rhythm and perspective—and applies it to the true story of Nissen...This book is about more [than boxing]: endeavor, belonging and redemption...It's also about Melbourne, its light and shade, and the people who fall between the cracks and the ones who survive.' Herald Sun
'A poignant tale of fortitude, love and sorrow...Arnold Zable draws an evocative portrait of post-war Carlton, underpinning his story of the compassionate man and the forces that moulded him.' Chronicle
'A truly inspiring slice-of-life tale...[Zable] skilfully peels back the layers of Henry's troubled mum Sonia and the effect it has had on the family.' Adelaide Advertiser
'Nissen is an unlikely hero, and Zable recreates his world with the utmost respect...The Fighter is an autumnal book, with leaves of many colours and limbs heavy with fruit. It offers a rich sense of the ways in which pain can mellow and create community.' Australian Book Review
'A study of loss, memory and displacement embodied in the lives of the previous generation, the refugees from Nazism and the war in Europe...In Zable's sensitive hands, each individual story of survival belongs to all.' Australian