RAHS Day Lecture – Regina’s Complaint: Philip Roth, Penguin Books and the end of the literary censorship system in Australia
August 4 @ 13:00 - 14:00
In 1970, Penguin Books Australia decided to publish Philip Roth’s fourth novel, Portnoy’s Complaint, a worldwide bestseller about a man obsessed with his mother and his penis. Banned in Australia for its supposed obscenity and depictions of sex, Portnoy’s Complaint was deliberately chosen in order to challenge Australia’s notorious system of literary censorship. The book was smuggled into the country, printed in secret, and 75,000 copies were shipped to more than two thousand booksellers across Australia and for sale on the cusp of spring. In doing so, Penguin and the sellers who took the book on spurred court trials in nearly every state, and managed to deal the censorship system a considerable blow. This talk will trace how the background to Penguin’s decision; how court trials and the accompanying publicity played out; and the effects of the trials on the censorship system.
About the speaker: Patrick Mullins is a Canberra-based academic and writer. He is an adjunct assistant professor at the University of Canberra and the author of two books: Tiberius with a Telephone: The Life and Stories of William McMahon (2018), and The Trials of Portnoy (2020).