C. B. ChristesenC. B. Christeseni(A4621 works by)
Clement Byrne Christesen; Clem Christesen; Chris Byrne)
Also writes as: C. B. C. Born:Established:28 Oct 1911Townsville,Townsville area,Marlborough - Mackay - Townsville area,Queensland,;Died:Ceased:28 Jun 2003Templestowe,Doncaster - Templestowe area,Melbourne - East,Melbourne,Victoria,
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Supporter and advocate of Australian literature and writers and founding editor of Meanjin, Clem Christesen was born and spent his early childhood in Townsville, recalled in his short story Arrivals and Departures. He was the son of a Danish-Irish father, Patrick, and Susan Byrne, a mainly Irish mother, a strong-willed woman who worked as a journalist before she married and, later, edited a magazine for the Queensland Women's Electoral League. It was Susan who brought literature into the house.
When Christesen was six the family moved to Brisbane where a series of house moves and childhood illnesses did not stop him from doing well in school and in athletics. He qualified as a wool-classer and worked in the country before becoming a journalist for the Brisbane Courier and the Telegraph. In the Depression years it became harder to find work in journalism and through the influence of the Queensland premier W. Forgan Smith, who had seen his manuscript Queensland Journey, Christesen was employed as a writer and publicist for the Queensland government.
In 1939 Christesen traveled overseas returning home at the beginning of the war. His time overseas had made him realise how lacking in culture Australia was and he decided that he could at least learn a foreign language and chose German. His teacher was Nina Maximov whom he later married. It was a supportive and enduring partnership.
On 12 December 1940, with James Picot, Brian Vrepont and Paul Grano, Christesen published 250 copies of an eight page literary magazine called Meanjin Papers. It met with little response in Brisbane but with an enthusiastic response from writers interstate including Nettie and Vance Palmer. In 1945, in an effort to achieve security for the magazine, Meanjin moved to the University of Melbourne and the Christesens settled in Eltham at 'Stanhope', a house and garden that they both loved and which was to be their home for the rest of their lives. Nina Christesen was appointed to a founding lectureship in Russian language and literature at the University of Melbourne.
Meanjin's move to the University was never formalised and the next decades were not easy for Christesen with his and the magazine's position at the University always uncertain. In January 1955 Nina and Clem Christesen appeared before the Royal Commission on Espionage, a consequence of the Petrov defection in 1954, and were exonerated. However, the fallout from the Petrov affair affected them financially and personally including a four-year estrangement from Clem's mother.
In the 1960s and 1970s Christesen spent time travelling overseas and began receiving recognition for his services to Australian literature. Despite political and financial arguments Meanjin itself was a constant. Judith Armstrong in her obituary writes of Christesen's editorial brilliance. 'His one criterion was quality, which he could discern beyond any aspirant's obscurity, political bias or personal animosity. An impressive number of the greats of Australian literature were brought to public notice through the pages of Meanjin....'
On 31 December 1974 Christesen retired from the editorship of Meanjin.
Sources: The Christesen Romance by Judith Armstrong (MUP, 1996); 'Editor who Fostered the True Voices of Australia' by Judith Armstrong (The Age 30 June, 2003)