Robert S. CloseRobert S. Closei(A33749 works by)
Robert Shaw Close)
Born:Established:15 Jul 1903Camberwell,Camberwell - Kew area,Melbourne - Inner South,Melbourne,Victoria,;Died:Ceased:17 Jul 1995Majorca,Balearic Islands,
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In a series of three sensational trials in the Victorian courts from 1946 to 1948 - one aborted, one to convict, one to appeal - Robert Close was found guilty of the common law offence of obscene libel for his first novel Love Me Sailor and sentenced to a gaol term. His publisher Georgian House was fined 100 pounds. Both the fine and the term were reduced on appeal, but the case was a nation-wide scandal and saw literary, journalist and civil rights organisations in many states galvanised into protest.
Set on a windjammer trading guano between Chile and the US, the novel centres on the presence of a woman passenger on an all-male ship, and challenged Australian standards with its representations of male desire, brothels and a corrupt femme fatale. It sold well in Australia, going into a second edition before facing charges, and was released in the US, England, Germany, Denmark, and by the risque Olympia Press in France. During the trials, an adaptation for the theatre was produced in a marquee in Sydney, to avoid charges under the NSW Theatre and Public Halls Act, and Donald Friend exhibited a painting depicting Close on trial in chains while angels in heaven read his novel and those of D. H. Lawrence. In 1951 the British edition was banned in Australia as a prohibited import, the Customs Minister overruling the Literature Censorship Board's decision to allow it. Love Me Sailor was not published in Australia until 1960.
Close had published a number of short stories before Love Me Sailor and his next novel, The Dupe, was written expressly to demonstrate that he could produce a literary novel without sexual content and, notably, without a single woman character (Of Salt and Earth, 234). Close himself left Australia in 1950 and lived much of his life overseas, where novels with Australian settings, like Eliza Callaghan (1957) and The Voyage Continues (1969), received critical attention and sold well. He published two autobiographical works - Morn of Youth (1948) and Of Salt and Earth (1977). The Robert Close papers are held in the Rare Books section of Sydney University's Fisher Library. (Nicole Moore)