Banned Books in Australia A Special Collections-Art in the Library Exhibition

The Writings of Henry Miller

Jenny Lee

Henry Miller’s works were banned in Australia more often than those of any other literary author. The bans began in the late 1940s and by 1969 he had ten individual books and an autobiographical trilogy on the prohibited list.

The rejections were in full swing in 1955, when the Fisher Librarian at the University of Sydney requested permission to import four of Miller’s books for the use of honours students in American literature.

The Board reluctantly agreed. Kenneth Binns commented that in all his experience as a censor, ‘I have not read any novel which has such disgusting passages or one which presents sex intercourse in such coarse and obscene detail’. Derek Scales, normally a liberal on the Board, described The Rosy Crucifixion as ‘truculently obscene’. The chairman, L. H. Allen, agreed, but expressed his belief that it would ‘cramp research’ to deny access to approved students.

The books were approved for the library under condition that they were kept in a locked cabinet, read on the premises by students who could produce a letter from their lecturers and returned to a senior librarian at the end of the session.

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