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The Literary Novel and Australian Literary Cultures 1950-2008

Richard Nile and Jason Ensor

The century belongs to the novelist

Across countless acts of sustained creativity that can and do take years to perform,

and via reading habits, patterns of library usage and book-buying, Australians have

established an intimate relationship with the novel that has not been extended on the

same scale or in similar manner to other literary forms. Given these patterns of

production and consumption, which have been remarkably consistent across more

than 100 years, there seems little to dispute the assertion that, despite the often

challenging conditions of writing and publication, the novel is Australias essential

literary form. Its centrality to literary culture has continued through many changes in

tastes, technologies and markets into the twentieth-first century. Between 1900 and

1969 more than 5000 Australian novels were published for the first time in print runs

ranging from the hundreds through to the tens and sometimes hundreds of thousands.

Poetry, short fiction and drama did not achieve anywhere near these figures either in

terms of published titles, sales or implied readerships. New novel titles doubled again

between 1970 and 2000, with more than 15000 published to 2000.

In other important respects the novel has been Australias pre-eminent literary form.

It continues to be the focus of the overwhelming majority of critical reviews in

literary pages and specialist journals, within discussion and reading groups, and is the

subject of the greatest number of published textual and author-based research in peer-

assessed academic publications, from articles to monographs, and biographical

studies. The novel is more visible within public culture than any other literary form

and well represented at all levels of Australian education. It is the subject of the most

prestigious literary awards nationally and internationally. The novel has also

established an enduring presence within wider creative cultures. There have been

many screen adaptations including films based on novels by Miles Franklin, Henry

Handel Richardson, Christina Stead, Jon Cleary, Thomas Keneally, Elizabeth Jolley,

Peter Carey, David Malouf, Tim Winton, Archie Weller, Christos Tsiolkas among

many more, and small screen adaptations for television including of the work of

George Johnston, Katharine Susannah Prichard, Neville Shute, Alan Marshall, Frank

Hardy, Martin Boyd, Ruth Park, Elizabeth Gaskin, Colleen McCullough and others.

To be fair, the first of two film adaptation of Banjo Patersons verse, The Man from

Snowy River became one of the highest grossing films in Australian cinema history,

with solid video and CD sales and a follow-up television series while playwright

David Williamson has been one of the most successful screen writers of his and others

works, but the closer relation with film and television has been the novel.1 It is also

possible to argue that the Australian novel has been more durable over a longer period

of time and influential culturally than film, music and the visual arts. Put simply, the

novel has been Australias most important and enduring literary genre.

To a considerable extent, the novel developed as an artefact of the Industrial

Revolution. Its history has been woven into all aspects of the settlement history of

Australia. The spread of the novel to Australia came with the expansion of

colonialism south and east from Europe, into the Indian and Pacific Oceans, and

globally with the establishment of vast European empires from the late eighteenth

century. Even before then, an imagined Great South Land that would eventually

constitute Australia existed imaginatively in the literature of the first novelists in

See Graeme Turner, National Fiction

English. With the use of modern mapping techniques, for example, it is possible to

plot the coordinates for Swifts Gullivers Travels into Australia, while Defoes

Robinson Crusoe owes a literary debt to the journals of William Dampier who visited

the northwest coast of Australia on two voyages in the late seventeenth century.

Australia persisted strongly in fiction within the Victorian novelistic imagination

through Dickens and Trollope, for instance, while the colonies produced their own

Victorian novelists such as Catherine Helen Spence, Rosa Praed and others. Marcus

Clarkes novel of incarceration and exile, His Natural Life, was the most read of

Australian colonial fictions. Clarkes novel has been reproduced in many forms, from

serial publications through to comic, stage productions, film and television

adaptations. It would surely adapt well as a musical and popular opera along the lines

of Hugos Les Miserable.

With the spread of empires came the spread of European languages, but none was as

influential or widespread as English as the language of the most extensive empire in

history. By the mid twentieth century, English had become the worlds first truly

global language.2 Its influence and global presence continues strongly into the

present digital age. It is impossible to understand the fuller history of Australia

without understanding the importance of the presence of the English language, its

variant form known as Australian English, and its most important literary production

of the modern period, the novel. The origins of the Australian novel might reasonably

be understood in terms of industrialisation and colonialism. It developed gradually as

a foundational genre, through colonialism and nationhood, into the contemporary

post-industrial moment.

The Story of English

The novel took the standard triple-decker form in the nineteenth century. As the

history of Clarkes His Natural Life reveals, like other Victorian fictions, the

Australian colonial novel followed this pattern of production and was closely

associated with serial publications that appeared in the broadsheets of the time. The

triple-decker novel was replaced by the single-volume novel in the 1890s. This

became the standard form throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty first.

From early soft covers, through hardbacks, and now, more commonly, the quality

paperback, the basic format of the novel changed remarkably little, even into the

digital age of greater design flexibility, leading to the elimination of traditional

typesetting requirements and necessity for designated print runs. Improvements in

printing technologies, including print-on-demand, and distribution techniques,

including digital download, along with consistently high literacy standards, help

explain the circumstances that aided the development of the novel, as do patterns of

work and recreation, but not necessarily the preferences demonstrated by writers and

their readers for this particular form of literature. A more detailed history is beyond

the scope of the present chapter but we note the strong correlation between literature

and reading in the development of the novel.

It is clear that Australians shared a strong liking for the novel in common with much

of the English-speaking and European-influenced worlds. Australians have always

written and read novels in large numbers, and to this day they constitute one of the

largest per capita book-reading publics in the English-speaking world. Despite their

reputation as outback adventurers, soldiers and sporting heroes, Australians constitute

a very literary nation. The creation of any literature, national or otherwise, involves a

complex set of relations between creativity, the processes of actualisation through

publishing, and the act of conferring meaning through reading. These interdependent

relationships are what ultimately define literature, which cannot truly be said to exist

without writing, publishing and reading. Reading is most commonly conceived of as

a individual pursuit, but its cumulative act can and does lead to broader perceptions of

identification with the imagined communities of nation.3 A novel is a manuscript

until such time as it is published and it really cannot be considered as literature until

such time as it has been read. The term literature evolved into its modern and

commonly accepted usage from an etymological root that linked both reading and

writing through the condition of literacy, of being able to both read and write.

Literature is therefore not only what is written but its relationship to reading. The

condition of reading tends to define literariness. The development of near universal

literacy in Australia, and a concomitant development of individualised silent reading

as the most widely practised form of reading, has had the effect of intensifying claims

to literariness (or otherwise) of creative fictions and related forms of published

writing. The development of textual studies as the principle objective of literary

criticism was a function of this intensification, most notably within English studies, as

a discrete academic discipline based on close readings.

As an extended form of prose fiction, the novel invites meditations upon the

complexities of life, character and circumstances through the act of reading. For the

most part, reading is intensely personal, commonly undertaken in solitude. The

personalised act of reading is set up by equally personal but quite different acts of

writing. Both reading and writing are intimately conceived activities and both are

Following Benedict Anderson

usually undertaken as highly individualised circumstances. For all their personal and

intimate aspects, reading and writing are deeply cultural and social acts. Readers

share, though not always in common, the imaginative worlds created by the novelist,

and they share with one another what is read but not always in the same way or with

the same emotional or intellectual result. Readings of the same works by different

readers can and do often create profoundly different experiences. Writers and readers

may actively imagine one another but they rarely meet beyond the illusory connection

they make on the page. Each exists in relation to the other but in a state of almost

perfect intimate strangeness.

Writing has been described as an act of gifting stories to readers. That is true to an

extent but especially during the stages of creating and preparing manuscripts before

they are published. Reading and writing are mediated by the processes of publication,

including, importantly, the negotiated role performed by editors. For most authors

editors are not only the first but the closest and most intimate of all readers. Their job

is to work with authors to bring manuscripts into final published form. Once

published an authors text does not generally alter, though modern forms of multi-

authored online stories and novels may ultimately over-ride the model of the

completed work. Editors stand at the mid-point between the act of writing and more

widespread acts of reading by the public. They are sometimes referred to as

handmaidens to the writing process who facilitate the journey from manuscript to

publication. Readers are enticed by a range of marketing strategies to purchase at

commercial rates and read books which, once published, are substantially owned by

the publisher. Under the conditions of most standard contracts, publishers generally

control 90 percent or more of the commercial value of each published novel. This

percentage is shared with booksellers. Ten percent or less of the commercial value of

the novel remains with the author, though the percentage generally increases with

successive editions. Those who buy books may ultimately experience the gift of the

writer but only after they have shelled out money to complete the sale and commit

their leisure time towards reading. Alternatively readers borrow from libraries which

are maintained from the collection of taxes or are passed on books are given copies on

special occasions. Therefore, while gifting certainly occurs, readers more frequently

enter into an implied contract with writers and publishers based on commercial

transaction and their choice to acquire books and allocate time to reading. It is a

substantial commitment that is made on a blend of personal and cultural choices.

Once published, novels exist in standard shape and form. They are compact and can

be easily carried and read across many different locations. E-books were developed

in the late twentieth century but run a long way behind print-based publications. It

remains to be seen what effect generation text will have on printed books. There

were indications in the early twenty-first century that demographic for print-based

publications was aging, while younger readers were accessing text-based material

through a range of electronic means. Even so, book sales have remained strong,

unlike newspapers which began to show signs of struggling. Each copy of a novel is

produced in identical form to all others in the same print run. The same words exist in

exactly the same order on each identical page and across all copies. Editions may

differ one from the other in format but not in content. For all this uniformity, reading

experiences can and do vary greatly between individuals, as they can between

different readings by the same person. Yet, despite the centrality of the novel to

Australian literature and more broadly Australian creative cultures, very little work

has been done on the genre outside of textual and author studies. This chapter

foregrounds some of the circumstances of production as a contribution towards the

theorisation and the history of the novel in Australia.

Awarding the Literature

Embedded within the concept of Australian literature is a deeply held assumption that

the Australian novel is closely associated with the experience of being Australian.

Readers are encouraged to believe and accept that this may be so and, in the process,

willingly suspend disbelief that Australia rendered imaginatively is also Australia

rendered authentically. By this process, the making of Australian literature has been a

project undertaken on a broad reader-based assumption that novelists and novels,

along with other creative artists and arts, contribute to deeper understandings and

experience of being Australian. Literature is not intrinsically national, nor is reading,

but each has the effect of contributing to the idea of literature can be understood

because of its nation of origin. Literature thus conceived simultaneously critiques and

evaluates, modifies and changes, the idea nation. The adjective Australian thus

attended to literatures gives great force and assumption to the proposition that

imagination and nation can and do co-exist in literature. The very idea of co-

existence, for all its diversity and critical engagements, is powerfully reinscribed by

the production of each new novel and each new act of reading. The triangulated

relationship between writers, publishers and readers thereby invents and continually

renews the concept of coherence through diversity in literatures and in nation.

Australian novelist and literary stalwart of the first half of the century, Miles Franklin,

died at the age of 75 in 1954. She had been at or near the centre of literary politics for

close on three decades following her repatriation to Australia after a 21-year absence

between 1906 and 1927. Franklin was once assumed to be very like her young

protagonist Sybilla from My Brilliant Career (1901). She seems never to have lost

any of her precocious sensibility, but by the 1950s Franklin was a venerable literary

personality. She was one of the last remaining connections with the 1890s, and had

known both Henry Lawson and Joseph Furphy at the height of their literary abilities.

Franklin was revered across extensive social networks, among them some of the more

important and influential cultural groupings in the nation. It came as little surprise to

those who had known her personally or through her reputation and commitment to

national literature that Franklin left provision in her will for a bequest towards the

creation of a national literary prize that would carry her name. The Miles Franklin

Award would ultimately become Australias most prestigious and sought-after literary

prize following its inauguration in 1957. Up until this time, the only award of any

national significance was the Australian Literature Societys Gold Medal for

Australian Literature. The concept of literary awards gradually caught on and by the

1980s there were an estimated 50 major awards, including state and premiers prizes,

corporate sponsored awards and a national award for young writers. Internationally,

Patrick White won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1975, Peter Carey (1988 and

2001) and Thomas Keneally (1982) won the Booker, and Kate Grenville won the

Orange Award in 2001.

Franklin had established her bequest in the belief that Australian literature to this time

had been all-too-often overlooked and marginalised, even at home, and that it needed

support and promotion. She had a point. Australian novels were largely published

overseas and often difficult to obtain locally. Reprints were virtually unheard of.

Further, there was no cultural infrastructure of any significance, and in the decades

before the establishment of the Literature Board of the Australia Council in 1973,

very little institutional support that might advance the cause of literature. A few

morsels fell from the table of Literature Boards predecessor, the Commonwealth

Literature Fund, which had been established in 1908 to support destitute writers with

pensions. The CLF was renovated in 1939 but only small improvements were made,

including the provision of a few meagre fellowships and annual lectures on Australian

literature at universities. While private benefactions have not traditionally been a part

of cultural philanthropy in Australia, much to the shame of such an affluent society,

Franklins ambition to raise the profile of Australian writing proved to be prescient.

A new reference point for creative excellence was established with the Miles Franklin

Award. As it became better-known and increasingly prestigious, it fed into larger

debates about the standards and canons of national writing. From the inaugural

winner, Patrick White for Voss in 1957, through to Alexis Wright for Carpentaria

half a century later in 2007, the Miles Franklin Award mapped changing literary

styles and shifts in literary politics. It was also the source of intense debates over

standards and the meanings of literature, spectacularly so during the Demidenko

controversy in the mid-1990s. The award was originally designed to honour both

novelists and dramatists, but it became overwhelmingly associated with the

development of the novel from the 1950s on.

The creation of the Miles Franklin Award helped to usher in a new period of critical

awareness of Australian literature that covered a range of reading positions from

specialist analysis and assessment through to broader engagement by lay reading

publics. While there is no direct or causal relationship between the creation of the

award and the establishment of the first chair of Australian literature at the University

of Sydney a few years later, both contributed to a new set of aesthetic and critical

practices that aided and assisted in establishing a higher status for Australian

literature. With time, these reading practices became more influential and spread to a

broader public debate over literature and its value. The Award and the opening up of

Australian universities contributed further to creating a new class of more

professional and discerning readers trained in critical methods whose opinions

mattered and which became increasingly influential through a variety of media.

Small magazines played their part, but literary analysis and reviewing were also

commonplace across other media, from the newspapers to radio and television.

By the 1970s and 1980s, Australian literature was well established as part of the

cultural mindset of the nation. It was being read at schools and universities and it

featured strongly at arts and literary festivals, with attendant spin-offs for book-clubs

from the 1990s. For more than a decade in the 1980s, along with Australian cinema,

music and the visual arts, Australian novels were considered to be flavour of the

month, which was a common phrase and euphemism that applauded international

success, especially in the US. Franklin had lived for extended periods in the US and

upon her return to Australia became a keen supporter of Australian curricula featuring

Australian literature. She would have been delighted by the Literature Boards

decision in 2008 to establish a specialist chair of Australian literature at the University

of Western Australia.

The creation of the Miles Franklin Award was an indication of a shift in literary

consciousness and reading practices, which may have been only barely apparent

around the middle of the twentieth century but which would gather momentum from

the 1960s. Nationalist authors who born towards the end of the nineteenth century

were by the mid twentieth century fewer on the ground and far less relevant than they

had been during the interwar period, while their influences, legacies and successions

were far from clear. Franklin herself is probably better known today on account of

the award that bears her name than the novels she wrote, including My Brilliant

Career which was made into a highly successful, internationally released, film in

1976. Among Franklin Award winners, only Vance Palmer (b1889) in 1959 belonged

to the older style nationalists that included Franklin. Xavier Herbert (b 1901) in 1975

and George Johnston (b 1912) in 1964 were associated with the nationalist project but

were very much younger than Palmer and his generational cohort. Indicative of new

writing and writers, Thea Astley (b 1925) was a multiple winner in 1962, 1965, 1972

and 2000, David Ireland won (b 1927) in 1971, 1976 and 1979, while White (b 1912)

picked up his second Miles Franklin Award in 1961.

Cultural traditions are never straightforward or easily explained, and they contain vast

discrepancy between what is and what is claimed to be. Close readings and textual

analyses help explain the apparent continuities as well as the contradictions. As the

novels of Henry Handel Richardson, Christina Stead and Eleanor Dark may have

complicated the nationalist project of the 20s and 30s, so White, Astley and Ireland,

among others, complicated claims to an orderly and easily explicable progression

based on the commonly accepted literary principles of the earlier time. The presence

of Whites novels, in particular, disrupted a great deal of what had once been accepted

as Australian literature. But he was simply too big a name and too important to

overlook. And so he was incorporated and assessed alongside even those with whom

he felt he had little in common and very likely despised. White was a prodigious

talent and an expert hater, and he antagonised the debate over literary value with

caustic observations about the shortcomings of Australian novels especially.

Importantly and inevitably generational changes usher in new dimensions and are a

most powerful force of cultural renewal. Older style nationalists were not only

literally getting old and beginning to fade by the 1950s, their novels seemed to be

increasingly old-fashioned and less relevant to the expectations of a changing

readership and its preoccupations. In 1958, a 23-year old Randolph Stow followed up

Whites success the year earlier and won the Miles Franklin Award for To the Islands.

Stow generated a good deal of excitement about the future possibilities of Australian

literature. He had all the hallmarks of Australias first celebrity author. He was

young, good-looking, awkward in company, rather too fond of the bottle, university-

educated and a specialist teacher of literature at the University of Western Australia.

Australias new reading publics took to his writing in a big way and by the 1960s his

Merry-go-round in the Sea was enormously popular among adults and young adult

readers alike. Palmer died in 1959 and was named as that years winner of the Miles

Franklin Award, one suspects out of respect for his service to literature more than his

achievement with The Big Fellow. The contrast with Stow and White were stark.

Somehow, Palmer did not readily fit the sequence of winners. Literary awards, like

traditions, contain elements of unpredictability. Rodney Hall was born in the same

year as Stow but waited more than two decades longer to win his first Miles Franklin

for Just Relations in 1982, which he followed up with a second in 1994 with The

Grisly Wife. By that time, Stow had left Australia and had all but given up writing to

live reclusively in the south of England. Not quite a baby-boomer, Carey won the

Miles Franklin with Bliss in 1981 and again with Jack Maggs in 1998. Carey became

internationally renowned and, like another Franklin Award winner, Keneally, was part

of a small but growing number of Australian novelists who negotiated different

publishing contracts in different copyright regions in the world. The first writer born

after the Second World War to win the Miles Franklin was Tim Winton 1984 for

Shallows, in 1992 for Cloudstreet, and Dirt Music in 2002. Another young writer to

win the award, Helen Demidenko, The Hand that Signed the Paper (1995), was the

latest born winner to 2007 (1971) and arguably the awards most controversial

recipient. In all, 86 years separated the first-born winner and the last, Demidenko,

for whom an Australian literary past that included Palmer would have been much

more than a foreign country.

The Miles Franklin Award does not constitute a tradition of Australian writing or

even a set of canonical texts, but its importance in mapping the literature from mid-

century is instructive. Importantly, it indicated new forms of readership and new

ways of reading Australian literature that would become increasingly apparent and

influential. The conferring of the Award almost invariably encouraged literary-based

discussions. At times, these spilled over into broader cultural debates, but

overwhelmingly they have focussed on questions of literary merit and the assessment

of works according to the principles of literary and textual criticism. Importantly, the

awarding of the Franklin each year confirmed the novel as Australias most important

literary form.

Inventing Traditions

With an even more famous and luxurious rush of blonde hair than Demidenko,

Dorothy Hewett in 1969 offered a scathing assessment of Katharine Susannah

Prichard, who had been the iconic Australian novelist of the earlier generation. In an

obituary published in what was to this time was the standard bearer of the old left,

the journal Overland, Hewett spoke dismissively of Prichards funeral cortege led by

a communist in a boiler suit. According to Hewett, Prichards funeral was a mark

of generational separation. Hewett was especially critical of Prichards attachment to

Russian-style communism which was becoming less appealing to the new left,

following the Paris Spring and Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia of 1968 and

growing disenchantment with the prosecution of the Vietnam war that led to the

largest street demonstrations in Australian history. The May 1969 moratorium march

attracted an estimated 500,000 Melburnians onto the streets in protest against the war.

For the younger generation of writers, the literature was also changing because of a

relaxation in censorship laws. Prichard and Hewett shared a literary interest in the

exploration of sexuality but the cultural and intellectual circumstances of the 1960s

were far freer to the 1920s and 1930s when Prichard was making her mark.

In 1954, Palmer published his most successful book, The Legend of the Nineties.

Unlike his earlier works, this was not a novel but a cultural analysis which identified

democratic nationalism as the guiding principle of Australian literature, built on a

tradition established in the 1890s by Lawson, Furphy and what, increasingly, became

known as the Bulletin school of writers. Four years later, as a young Mick Stow

was collecting his Miles Franklin Award, Russel Ward published The Australian

Legend which developed Palmers theme further. The Australian Legend went deeper

into an imagined past and dated Australias democratic ethos back to the convicts. In

1958, Arthur Phillips also published his influential The Australian Tradition which

not only reprinted his most famous essay The Cultural Cringe, first published in

1950, but studies of Lawson and Furphy. Palmer, Phillips and Ward were each

exponents of what became the old left or radical nationalist interpretation of

Australian history and culture.

Although still influential, radical nationalism and realist literature appeared to be

increasingly dated for new generations of Australian readers. These earlier literary

positions were especially challenged in the 1960s and 1970s from two opposing

views. The new left included younger highly educated intellectuals informed by a

strong sense of human rights and cultural pluralism which emphasised manifold forms

of oppression through race, ethnicities, gender, and sexuality, principally, as distinct

from more traditional forms of left-inspired cultural politics. Their key disposition

extolled the authority of the intellectual rather than the revolutionary potential of the

working classes whom they still championed. The new left actively challenged and

frequently ridiculed the old left paradigm of class and oppression by pointing to

such issues as the lack of indigenous rights in Australia, widespread domestic

violence and the oppression of women. The old left was also opposed by

conservatives who from time to time gathered around the phrase counter-

revolutionaries. Among the first to use this phrase publicly was Peter Coleman, who

edited a symposium published as Australian Civilization (1962). Coleman also wrote

the first extended study of the influences of censorship on Australian literature in

Obscenity, Blasphemy and Sedition (1971). Less cohesive than the new left,

conservative intellectuals featured powerfully through their writings and public

pronouncements and included the likes of Donald Horne, The Lucky Country (1964),

Robin Boyd, The Australian Ugliness (1960) and Ronald Conway The Great

Australian Stupor (1971) which shifted the cultural emphasis away from the bush as

the citadel of Australian democracy to the acquisitive suburbs. Many wrote for the

conservative journal Quadrant. The first professor of Australian literature, Leonie

Kramer, had an intellectual affinity with this group.

Ken Gelder and Paul Salzman (1989) argued a new diversity was apparent in

Australian literature from the 1970s. It was influenced by the politics of the time but

also the framing of a literary consciousness fundamentally altered because of

demographic changes, the reorientation of Australian interests into the Indian-Pacific

and Asian regions, and relaxation of censorship laws. They also identified a new

politics surrounding Australian publishing which gave additional confidence to local

writing. Like traditions, periods are notoriously difficult to demark and may be in

actuality little more than inventions of the historical imagination and convenience.

This much the bibliographer and critic H.M. Green understood in his monumental

History of Australian Literature (1961). Green divided Australian literary history into

four periods, with the fourth ranging from 1923 to 1950. The year 1923 or

thereabouts has been assumed here to mark the turning of the tide, Green argued, not

the full tide by any means, for there was yet the Depression to follow, and further

disillusions, and second World War, but a turning point. Green went on: And if

there is comparative vagueness about the beginning of this final Period there is still

more about its ending: we seem to be somewhere near it now, but that is almost all

that can be at present said (932). It might reasonably be assumed that Greens

reference to an ending was to the time of his writing (c1960) rather than the

bookend to his period, 1950. This can be discerned from Dorothy Green who edited

the second edition of the two volume History: . . . the publisher decided to abandon

the plan to bring Volume II up to date to 1973, and to publish it with its original

closing date of 1950, thus eliminating the final chapter. It was decided to remove the

new material to a third volume, with a closing date of 1980, which would be the sole

responsibility of the present writer [Dorothy Green] (vii). It seems therefore that

closing dates, like beginning dates, can be arbitrary, in this particular instance, there

are at least four possibilities: 1950, 1960, 1973 and 1980, all more or less


As an imaginary moment, the mid part of a century is nonetheless a useful fulcrum

and point of transition from which an assessment of the literature can be made. From

its vantage point looking back was a recent past of two catastrophic wars and the

Great Depression of the 1930s. Indisputably, these mass experiences helped shape

generational memories that would later inform what in the 1960s became known as

the generation gap. Looking forward from 1950, the world might have seemed every

bit as insecure as it had ever been though for many it was also far more dangerous.

Nations were divided into two ideological blocs of capitalism and communism, with

all the grotesque possibilities of mass destruction through nuclear weapons. Under

the absurd realities of the cold war and what became known as mutually assured

destruction (MAD), after the Soviets acquired the bomb in 1949, Australians

embraced American foreign policy and post-war reconstruction by expanding

immigration, manufacturing and the suburbs in a period characterised by economic

prosperity, consumerism and stable conservative rule between 1949 and 1972. From

the 1970s, the non-aligned and third world came into focus for many as an expression

of counter-culture. South East Asia, but especially India, were influential with a

number of writers who embraced Eastern religions and mysticism.

Making of National Literature

For all the evident literary diversity of the period from the 1970s onward, there were

also remarkable continuities that connected to past to the present. In 1986, the general

manager of the University of Queensland Press, at that time, one of the more

successful publishers of Australian literature, offered a public assessment of the

circumstances surrounding the creation of Australian literature. What happens to a

country, to a culture, when one its most enduring influences, that of its native

literature, is in the hands of another culture?, Laurie Muller asked. To many, such a

question may have seemed curious and perhaps out of joint with its time. Australias

literary prospects were in reasonably good shape, while the broader cultural mood

was buoyant, imbued as it was by the twin successes of international acceptance and,

locally, new nationalisms that had grown up around flourishing creative industries

such as film, television, theatre, art, dance and music. There were box office

successes at the cinema; seemingly endless runs of television soaps, dramas and

childrens television; touring theatre companies; the achievements of Indigenous art

and dance; and any number of headline musical acts from Peter Sculthorpe to INXS.

Following a fairly uninterrupted period of cultural renaissance since the 1970s,

Australian literature continued to be considered the flagship of the nation and,

arguably, Australias most important creative enterprise. Yet, Muller went on to

assert, what happens when the nations literature is shaped, influenced, and edited in

another place? Should we be put in the ignominious position of having to import our

own culture. No would have been an obvious answer, if any had really been

sought. It seems more likely that Muller was fishing for a reaction rather than a

definitive response, as the first stage of a broader strategy of mobilisation to a cause.

The hard-won successes of local writing, he maintained, had become an issue for

local publishers as multinational companies began raiding Australian lists by luring

away name authors with significant financial inducements that could not be met

locally and which, in most instances, could not be covered by sales. UQP would be

hit hard by such raids. Among Mullers intended audience were writers, literary

scholars as new custodians and readers, other publishers and literary agencies that, he

hoped, align into a broad coalition of interests to keep published Australian work

within Australia. All sectors of the industry realised that there were larger

commercial implications at play, as international companies appeared to be

determined to bolster their Australian credentials in the Australian market by using

commercial dominance to buy high profile Australian authors and thereby increase

credibility locally which was a threat to local publishers. Industry talk began to

centre on celebrity authors and the stacking of lists against what were argued to be the

better interest of Australian literature. At stake commercially was one of the most

lucrative English-language book markets in the world, which was undergoing

significant adjustments because of changes in the ownership of publishing companies

globally. These would prove to be among the more significant changes to affect

English-language publishing since the signing of the Berne agreement in the late

nineteenth century:

Throughout much of the twentieth century, the English-language book trade remained

almost obstinately separated into two very distinct blocs. United States manufacturers

and traders were left to their huge domestic market which approached 300 million by

the early twenty first century. The Americans also traded into Mexico and Latin

America, but manifest destiny stopped in the north at the forty-ninth parallel until

compromises were reached in the 1970s. These compromises opened up the

Canadian market to US publishers, but Australia remained firmly within the British

sphere of interest. The British trade commanded English-language rights throughout

much of Europe until the end of the second world war, and all colonial and former

colonial possessions. The Berne agreement continued to protect British cartel

interests in the international trade while fixed prices in the domestic British market

established and enforced prices in the Australian market. (Nile 2002 p 37) Australian

publishers could do very little to compete apart from looking to fill gaps in the

market. New publishers came and went but some made significant contributions.

Sun Books in the 1960s and McPhee-Gribble in the 1980s are representative examples

of local publishing ingenuity against the overwhelming economic presence of British-

based companies.

Muller was an adept cultural politician who for many years had been the president of

the Book Publishers Association and he knew well his constituency. His plea took

on the character of a call to arms around local publishing as an a priori condition for a

healthy and viable national literature. Arguments in favour of local publishing had

been part of the cultural mix in Australia for the better part of a century. That they

took this particular shape in the 1980s reflected new insecurities surrounding the

nexus between writing and publishing, but the real fight was over Australian readers.

Muller was not simply establishing a rationale and agenda for a larger debate

concerning the providence of Australian literatures, he was responding to a shake-up

in international publishing and cautioning writers against switching camps. Many

supporters of the literature recognised this.

While poetry, drama and short fiction might have been imputed by the term

Australian literature, the publishers interests were almost exclusively the novel. And

it was the literary novel, rather than the novel in general, that was most highly prized.

Popular forms of literature could generate lucrative returns but most titles perished

after only a short time, and needed to be constantly renewed. Standard formulas

assisted the quick turn around required by writers to produce several titles a year.

There was the phenomenal success of Carter Brown, for example, in genre of pulp

fiction from the 1950s to the 1970s, while romance novels and historical romances are

still routinely churned out at a very large volume per author. By contrast, literary

fictions take longer to write and establish a much longer shelf-life, notwithstanding

the Australian propensity not to reprint works. By the early twenty-first century,

literary fiction was carrying significant commercial cachet even if print runs were

smaller than more popular forms of writing, precisely because they survive better and

for longer periods within readerly consciousness. In making claims for the front lists

of the 1980s, Muller was also arguing for the preservation of Australian back lists

Australias literary fictions which had been significantly defined by new classes of

readers from the 1950s onward.

To an extent Muller was adopting the rhetoric of protectionism and older-style

cultural nationalism. His language owed something to the mood of 1970s and to the

logic sitting in behind the much vaunted cultural optimism of the Whitlam

government (1972-1975) that had led to, among other things, the establishment of the

Literature Board in 1973. Before Whitlam, the Gorton government (1968-1971) had

supported a nascent Australian film industry and oversaw the ending of censorship

restrictions in literature. Following Whitlam, the Fraser government (1975-1983)

established the Special Broadcasting Service and multicultural radio, while continuing

many of the cultural reforms dating back to Gorton. Government interventions into

and support for the arts significantly reshaped the Australias creative constituencies

and their expectations of arts practice from the 1970s. In 1986, Muller was alerting

this very constituency, made up of readers and writers, to its new challenges which

included, among other things, the deregulation of the Australian economy. The

metaphor and the reality of opening up the Australian market to international trade

and finances would significantly effect all arts areas and challenge established

relationships around forms of cultural protection.

Australia was the single largest importer of books from the UK. The Americans had

long been interested in the Australian market and in the mid 1970s established a legal

justification for competing for market share. New readers and cultural elites, as they

were becoming increasingly known, were concerned about the negative influences on

the local culture of American pulp fictions, in particular. A coalition of novelists,

literary scholars, publishers and cultural bureaucrats formed around the arguments in

favour of Australian literature. This coalition would ultimately argue the case to

continue British interests in Australia. Its arguments would prevail and maintain their

hold over the Australian book trade following a 1989 inquiry recommended

deregulation of the book trade. They were back to the barricades in 2008 when the

issue of parallel imports was again raised within the context of a free trade agreement

with the US.

In the 1980s, new generations and publishers, including Hilary McPhee and Diana

Gribble, established new parameters for a distinctive new Australian novelthe

literary paperback. The success of McPhee Gribble over almost two decades came to

an end in 1989 when the company was overtaken by a multinational publisher. With

the sale of the local publisher one of the most prestigious and important literary lists

of the late twentieth century passed out of Australian hands. It was a familiar story.

According to Muller:

. . . some of the most culturally influential names are no longer edited and
published in this country. It is cultural imperialism. Is our literature being
looted, is this the modern face of transnational publishing, or is it good old
British Empire style hard-nosed business opportunism . . . our writers, having
finally achieved hard won international appreciation, are being enticed to
publish out of London for access to the UK/European market.

Specifically, Muller was addressing an ongoing structural weakness in Australian

publishing and literary production which, more precisely in the language of the times,

was expressed as an argument about cultural makers over cultural takers. Australians

were great cultural consumers, they were gifted cultural producers but there had

always been, to steal a term from a slightly later time, a perception of a disconnect

between the two. It was not only the role of writers, editors and publishers to produce

novels of fine quality, they had to ensure the novels place within the patterns of

Australian cultural consumption. Their ongoing struggle stirred disquiet about British

and American cultural influences in the context of Australias comparatively small

English language population.

According to Phillips classic 1950 essay, the Australian cultural cringe existed in two

main varieties: the cringe direct and the cringe inverted. Australian readers often

inhabited a position of the cringe direct in its critique of a perceived Australian

acquiescence to metropolitan cultures but specifically all things British. The cringe

was associated with a colonial mind-set against which nationalists railed. Inside the

collective insecurity of Australian creative and reading cultures resided the voice of

what Phillips referred to as a minatory Englishman, a voice of cultural

disparagement which placed an inferior label on the cultural and creative capacities of

Australians. By contrast, the cringe inverse was that of the opinionated Australian

bore who proclaimed all things Australian to be superior. It was the attitude of the

Gods own country cultural nationalist.

What might now be reasonably thought about as a counter cultural cringe movement

of the 1980s celebrated the achievements of Australian culture while arguing against

the constraints placed on creativity because of lack of cultural infrastructure and the

very largeness of English-language cultures which could be intimidating to the efforts

of Australians. A new generation of writers had moved on from the achievements of

White to make their marks nationally and internationally. Among them were poets

and playwrights, but overwhelmingly they were novelists and included Kate

Grenville, David Malouf, and Winton. Fundamental changes in the structure of the

Australian economy through financial deregulation, beginning with the election of the

Hawke government in 1983, also threw up new challenges. Up until this time,

Australian industries had been protected by a series of tariff walls. The tariff wall was

an aid to but also a metaphor of protection afforded to Australian culture. The

arguments in favour of Australian literature were held within a logic that attested to

national health through the safeguarding of local creativity against foreign influences.

The reduction in protection (which began under Whitlam) transformed into a new

mantra about open markets under Hawke and Keating. Keating was also closely

identified with the new readers as cultural elites and supported a stronger commitment

to writing, through senior fellowships offered by the Literature Board. The

fellowships became known as the Keatings. With the election of the Howard

government in 1996, a strong sentiment was expressed against so-called cultural


It was also typical of Australia that cultural capital might be measured in monetary

terms. For close to a century, British interests in Australia had been protected by

internationally binding laws and well-defined international trading practices. Michael

Legat, formerly editorial director of Corgi Books and later Cassell and Company, both

significant UK publishers, summarised these in a series of successful practical guides

for authors writing in English. His An Authors Guide to Publishing (1991) was

commended by the British Society of Authors as invaluable reading for all authors . .

. a balanced, helpful and informative guide to the profession of authorship. Among

the more helpful tips was Legats description of Territory and Rights:

Even those whose knowledge of geography is minimal are aware that the
world is divided into the continents . . . The author writing in English has
needed to learn a different kind of geography, which is concerned with the
division of territories by various English-language publishers . . . Until quite
recently, there were likely to be two principal publishers onlythe British and
American housesand the world was divided into three: the exclusive British
market, the exclusive American (i.e. United States) market, and the rest of the
world, termed the Open market.

Through a series of trading conventions and laws, Australia continued to operate as an

exclusively British territory.

In 1989, a Prices Surveillance Authority (PSA) inquiry determined that prices on

books were artificially high, as a consequence of the British dominance of the

Australian book industry. The PSA recommended a more open market which would

allow other English-language publishers to compete for Australian book buyers and

readers. Under this threat, some Australian publishers, writers and readers argued for

the status quo which meant the continuation of British cultural domination. Within a

few short years, cultural nationalists like Muller, Keneally and Carey shifted from

their arguments about cultural independence and sovereignty to acknowledging and

accepting the territories and rights described by Legat. Those conditions obtained to

Australian book production into the twent- first century but under constant threat of


Literature and the National Culture

The emergence of the AustLit database since the 1990s represents a growing

structure of authority (Bourdieu 19) in the field of Australian creative and critical

writing that has, over time, drawn to itself the cultural and institutional power to shape

and set definitions (and to influence the direction of bibliographic definition systems)

for classifying Australian works. The graphs that follow assess the distribution of

approximately 20500 first-edition Australian novels (plus nearly 18000

manifestations) and represent the (pre-clean) state of the AustLit database at May

2008. Though there is risk attached to examining publishing trajectories within a

database still incomplete, the trends established are consistent with other attempts to

map the literature. Figure 1 charts the distribution of first-edition novels (mainly

between Australia and Britain). This graph supports the traditional findings of book

history: Britain (represented by the blue line) dominated until 1941, when the

circumstances of the second world war allowed for a more sustainable Australian

industry (the green line), to the point that Britain never recaptured its once dominant

position in Australian literature.

Figure 1: Publication of First Edition Australian Novels, AUSTRALIA (green) VS ENGLAND

(blue), 1900-2000. Australian total includes Cleveland Publishing Co and Horwitz (pulp fiction

publishers). Number of first edition novels produced against year published.

In Figure 2 the light green line graph represents all Australian publishers, including

Australias most successful publishers of pulp fictions in the immediate post-war

period, Cleveland and Horwitz. The dark green line graph represents all Australian

publishers minus them . It is clear that Cleveland and Horwitz produced the greatest

number of titles between 1954 and 1971 (respectively 1460 and 815 novels each),

establishing the companies as undeniably the most prolific Australian publishers for

the period.

Figure 2: Publication of First Edition Australian Novels, MAINSTREAM AUSTRALIAN

PUBLISHERS (dark green) VS PULP FICTION PUBLISHERS (light green) from 1953-1972

(within 1900-2000 statistics). Number of first edition novels produced against year published.

It is also clear that the sharp peaks of pulp fiction production continue in an opposite

direction to the rest of the Australian publishing industry for this period, which

appears to be in significant decline towards pre-1940s levels from 1956 until at least

1966. After 1966, a new pattern of mainstream publishing emerges to eventually

match Cleveland and Horwitz in the early 1970s, and then overtakes the totals in

1972, when Cleveland and Horwitz sharply drop in production and produce fiction at

greatly reduced levels for the next twenty years. In Figure 3, where only mainstream

Australian publishers (not including Cleveland and Horwitz) are mapped, British

publishers rival Australian novel production between 1956 and 1967 and is not too

sharply differentiated until the 1980s. In 1984, mainstream Australian publishers

became more significant than both British publishers and Australias two largest pulp

fiction publishers to create a surge in novel production in 1987, with a lasting peak

matching that of Cleveland and Horwitzs record year in 1960. This period aligns with

a discernible movement towards quality paperbacks and literary fictions associated

with, for example, McPhee Gribble.

Figure 3: Subtracting Cleveland Publishing Company and Horwitz (pulp fiction publishers).

Publication of First Edition Australian Novels, AUSTRALIA (green) VS ENGLAND (blue),

1900-2000. Number of first edition novels produced against year published.

The post-Second World War production trends cast a different light on the usual

comparison between British and Australian publishers in the production of first-

edition Australian novels. While modern book histories generally agree that British

publishers dominated the Australian publishing industry until the 1940s, the degree to

which British publishers return to dominance again for over a decade (19561967) is

noteworthy. The failure of the majority of Australian publishers in the face of the

British influences across most of the twentieth century is striking. Literary historians

have until recently largely ignored or marginalised Australian pulp fiction because of

its association with market forces and low genres. Although it has been suspected

that pulp fiction publishers took advantage of the Australian government establishing

tariffs on American imports that effectively banned American pulps from 1939

1959 (Johnson-Woods 74) the degree to which pulp publishers were able derive a

disproportionate benefit requires further examination. In recognising pulp fiction as a

major rival to the literary novel during this period, a more accurate view can be

gained of the Australian literary landscape and markets.

Figure 4: Reprints of Australian Novels, AUSTRALIA (green) VS ENGLAND (blue) VS

OTHER INTERNATIONAL (red), 1900-2000. Number of reprinted / translated works

(manifestations) against year published.

Reprints and translations offer an alternative and informative view of the crafting or

favouring of literary taste locally and internationally. Reprints are keyed in with

production cycles, the length of time in which profits are secured during the previous

or initial print run, and the general feeling publishers have for their markets (Figure

4). The relationship a publisher has to perceived audiences and the economic or

political interest (Bourdieu 46) in success and profit influences printings of a work or

translation from another imprint. Reprints are thus a commercial indicator of demand.

In applying a statistical analysis to AustLits manifestation metadata for Australian

novels, an oblique picture may be built up of modern literary tastes and demands

during the twentieth centurywhich books publishers reprinted or translated the



1. West, Morris 1959 1959 - 2005 The Devil's Advocate 65

2. Shute, Nevil 1957 1957 - 2005 On the Beach 56

3. Shute, Nevil 1950 1950 - 2001 A Town Like Alice 55

4. West, Morris 1963 1963 - 2003 The Shoes of the 49


5. McCullough, 1977 1977 - 2005 The Thorn Birds 47


6. West, Morris 1973 1973 - 1995 The Salamander 46

7. White, Patrick 1957 1957 - 2000 Voss 41

8. Shute, Nevil 1942 1942 - 2000 Pied Piper 40

9. Shute, Nevil 1952 1952 - 2000 The Far Country 39

Keneally, Thomas 1982 1982 - 1997 Schindler's Ark 39

10. West, Morris 1971 1971 - 1994 Summer of the Red 37


11. West, Morris 1968 1968 - 1999 The Tower of Babel 36

12. West, Morris 1965 1965 - 1999 The Ambassador 34

West, Morris 1974 1974 - 2005 Harlequin : A Novel 34

West, Morris 1979 1979 - 1993 Proteus 34

13. Shute, Nevil 1944 1944 - 2001 Pastoral 33

14. Shute, Nevil 1947 1947 - 2000 The Chequer Board 31

Shute, Nevil 1948 1948 - 2000 No Highway 31

Shute, Nevil 1955 1955 - 2000 The Breaking Wave 31

Shute, Nevil 1960 1960 - 2000 Trustee from the 31


West, Morris 1981 1981 - 2003 The Clowns of God : A 31


15. White, Patrick 1955 1955 - 1998 The Tree of Man 30

West, Morris 1976 1976 - 1992 The Navigator 30

Figure 5: TOP REPRINTED WORKS, Published outside AUSTRALIA, 1890-2005. Up to Rank 15.

The top reprints or translations for 1890-2005, as shown in Figure 5, are: The Devils

Advocate (West 1959), On the Beach (Shute 1957), A Town Like Alice (Shute 1950),

The Shoes of the Fisherman (West 1963), The Thorn Birds (McCullough 1977), The

Salamander (West 1973), Voss (White 1957), Pied Piper (Shute 1942), The Far

Country (Shute 1952), Schindlers Ark (Keneally 1982), Summer of the Red Wolf

(West 1971), The Tower of Babel (West 1968), The Ambassador (West 1965),

Harlequin (West 1974) and Proteus (West 1979). Indeed, from ranks one to twenty,

works by Australian authors Morris West and Nevil Shute generally dominate as the

most reprinted titles internationally to 2005. From position twenty-one onwards,

however, pulp fiction giant Carter Brown not surprisingly has bestsellers in nearly all

subsequent ranks: titles like The Wanton sit alongside Whites A Fringe of Leaves;

The Tigress ranks ahead of Herberts Capricornia and Boldrewoods Robbery Under

Arms; and Browns The Vixen, The Stripper and A Corpse for Christmas share shelf

space with translations of Maloufs An Imaginary Life. Much further down, Browns

W.H.O.R.E eclipses My Brilliant Career at no 36 through the luxury of just one more


Figure 6: TOP REPRINTED AUTHORS, Australia, 1890-2005.

Because of the punishing workloads of many pulp fiction writers and the association

of pulp novels with the lowest socio-economic markets, it is easy to see why Carter

Brownpresently the most reprinted author in Australia for 1890-2005, ahead of

Herbert, Prichard, and Franklin by ten times or more reprints in Australia, as Figure 6

showsremains unchallenged as the most successful Australian writer to ever

produce for the international market by a reprint/translation multiplier of three or

more, closely followed by Morris West and Nevil Shute (Figure 7).

Figure 7: TOP REPRINTED AUTHORS, International, 1890-2005.

Quality notwithstanding, the high reprint runs for Carter Brown suggest that

international tastes from the fifties to the seventies were different to what publishers

in Australia considered worthy of being reprinted. Between 1950 and 1979, Browns

The Corpse, The Unorthodox Corpse, Sex Trap and A Good Year for Dwarfs? were

weighted with more attention by some international publishers than Power Without

Glory, The Roaring Nineties, Capricornia and The Four-Legged Lottery. Certainly,

more literary Australian novels like these last four fought for attention within an

international market that also supported, rather competitively, titles like The Ice-Cold

Nude, No Blonde is an Island and NudeWith a View.

Figure 8 provides a more recent look at the international reprint list for 19902005. A

heavy decline in pulp literature can be seen after twin peaks in 1960 and 1965. This

suggests a consistent international shift towards the production and consumption of

more literary texts and away from works in pulp and popular genres. Schindlers

Ark, The Devils Advocate and The Thorn Birds remain in the line-up over the past

fifteen years, but new entries include Eucalyptus (Bail 1998), Lazarus (West 1990),

The First Man in Rome (McCullough 1990), The Lovers (West 1992), The Grass

Crown (McCullough 1991), Eminence (West 1998), Goulds Book of Fish (Flanagan

2001), Remembering Babylon (Malouf 1993), The Riders (Winton 1994), The

Conversations at Curlow Creek (Malouf 1996), Dirt Music (Winton 2001) and Oscar

and Lucinda (Carey 1988). Carter Brown does not appear anywhere in the top one

hundred works.


1. Bail, Murray 1998 1998 - 2002 Eucalyptus 22

2. West, Morris 1990 1990 - 2005 Lazarus 19

Keneally, 1982 1992 - 1997 Schindler's Ark 19


Nix, Garth 1995 1996 - 2004 Sabriel 19

3. McCullough, 1990 1990 - 2003 The First Man in Rome 18


West, Morris 1992 1992 - 2002 The Lovers 18

4. McCullough, 1991 1992 - 2004 The Grass Crown 17


West, Morris 1998 1998 - 2003 Eminence 17

Flanagan, 2001 2001 - 2005 Gould's Book of Fish : A 17

Richard Novel in Twelve Fish

5. West, Morris 1959 1990 - 2005 The Devil's Advocate 16

Malouf, David 1993 1993 - 2005 Remembering Babylon 16

6. West, Morris 1988 1990 - 2002 Masterclass 15

McCullough, 1977 1990 - 2005 The Thorn Birds 15


7. West, Morris 1996 1996 - 2000 Vanishing Point 14

8. Marsden, John 1987 1990 - 1995 So Much to Tell You 13

Winton, Tim 1994 1995 - 2000 The Riders 13

Malouf, David 1996 1998 - 2001 The Conversations at Curlow 13

Nix, Garth 2001 2001 - 2005 Lirael : daughter of the 13


Winton, Tim 2001 2002 - 2005 Dirt Music 13

Hannay, Barbara 2003 2005 - 2005 A Wedding at Windaroo 13

9. Carey, Peter 1988 1990 - 2003 Oscar and Lucinda 12

Parv, Valerie 1990 1991 - 1994 That Midas Man 12

Way, Margaret 1997 1997 - 2001 Holding on to Alex 12

Nix, Garth 1997 1997 - 1999 The Calusari : A 12


Pascoe, Judy 2002 2002 - 2004 Our Father Who Art in the 12

10. Malouf, David 1990 1990 - 2000 The Great World 11

West, Morris 1988 1990 - 2003 The Shoes of the Fisherman 11

White, Patrick 1957 1990 - 2000 Voss 11

McCullough, 1993 1993 - 2003 Fortune's Favourites 11


Stevens, Lynsey 1993 1993 - 1996 Touched by Desire 11

Keneally, 1992 1994 - 1996 Woman of the Inner Sea 11


Malouf, David 1978 1994 - 2002 An Imaginary Life : A Novel 11

McCullough, 1996 1996 - 2004 Caesar's Women 11


Parv, Valerie 1996 1997 - 2004 A Royal Romance 11

Parv, Valerie 1998 1999 - 2000 The Princess and the 11


Figure 8: TOP REPRINTED WORKS, Published outside AUSTRALIA, 1990-2005. Up to Rank 10.

Though these statistics can only be a superficial and partial identification of ...

empirically verifiable regularities (Bourdieu 12), data like this can constitute a novel

way in which claims about cultural dominance [and market forces] might be explored

and debated (Bennett 203). Such statistics pose questions for how Australias literary

co-ordinates are organised locally and internationally.

The data on reprints supports the contention that new reading publics are discernible

in Australia from the 1950s. These publics helped shape and give value to the

meanings ascribed to the Australian literature. We have contended in this chapter that

literature emerged out of a compact between writers and readers. That relationship is

mediated by publishers. While Australians continued their longstanding liking for

popular forms of writing, their reading practices created significant spaces for the

creation and evaluation of the literary novel which came to the fore in the second half

of the twentieth century. The century manifestly belonged to the novel and the

literary novel shows every indication of remaining the flagship of Australian literature

into the twenty-first century.

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