Obscene and Over Here : National Sex and the Love Me Sailor Obscenity Trial
On March 13 1946, Robert Close sat on a wooden bench in the Victorian Supreme Court, and listened to his novel being read aloud. Copies had been distributed to the jury and the Crown prosecutor, Leo Little KC, stood in the middle of the room and read Love Me Sailor from beginning to end, until the end of the next day. A year before Close and his publisher, Ted Harris of Georgian House, had been charged with a criminal offence: 'that they did, on or about the 16th of February 1945 publish the said book, being one containing obscene matter' (Case notes Victorian Law Reports). Specifically, they were charged with the rare offence of obscene libel; after three trials, a campaign of support from left literary circles, and further broad public interest in the case, they were found guilty. Close and Georgian House were fined, the book was immediately withdrawn from sale, and, in a moment without precedent or recurrence in Australia, Close was sentenced to a prison term. On his release, after serving ten days of what was originally a three-month sentence, Robert Close denounced Australia, and left for Europe and apparent literary and intellectual freedom, not returning for twenty-five years.
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