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

James Baldwin, Another Country (banned 1963–1966)

James Baldwin’s novel Another Country explored psychological dimensions of US race relations and gave a sympathetic portrayal of sexual relationships between men. When the book arrived in Australia in 1963, Customs banned it without bothering to consult the Literature Censorship Board.

The board ruled on the novel in May. Although they believed ‘negro author Baldwin has a message and a reasoned point of view’ on race relations, his novel was ‘continually smeared with indecent, offensive and dirty epithets and allusions’. After much discussion, the board recommended that the book be made available to students and scholars but not placed on general sale. The Minister overruled their recommendation and banned the book.

The importers appealed and the book went to appeal censor L. H. Allen. He described Another Country as ‘a work of genius marked by great intellectual power’ but baulked at its sexual references. ‘If the word obscene has any meaning under the Act,’ he said, ‘obscenity can no further go’. In particular, the novel’s accounts of homosexual encounters were told ‘with repulsive minuteness’. He recommended maintaining the ban, which remained in place until 1966.

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