Author Frank Moorhouse dies aged 83

Author Frank Moorhouse died early on Sunday morning at a hospital in Sydney,his publisher Penguin Random House has confirmed. He was 83.

One of Australia’s most celebrated but also most controversial writers,Moorhouse lived and wrote about the good life – in both senses of the phrase,sometimes paradoxically. With a passion for fine food,cocktails and justice,he fearlessly wrote about the things essential to him.

Frank Moorhouse relaxes at his Potts Point home.

Frank Moorhouse relaxes at his Potts Point home.Marco Del Grande

His publisher Meredith Curnow at Penguin Random House told theHerald she felt privileged to have worked with him.

“Renowned for his use of the discontinuous narrative in works such asThe Americans,Baby andForty-Seventeen,Frank Moorhouse has been an active participant in Australian literature for nearly 50 years,” she said.

“The office of PEN[international organisation for freedom of speech for poets,essayists and novelists] and the Australian Society of Authors were profoundly influenced by his activism on behalf of all writers.

“The Edith Trilogy,made up of the astounding novelsGrand Days,Dark Palace andCold Light have not only brought immense pleasure to so many readers,but have also affected the career paths of many women. I feel so privileged to have worked with Frank onCold Light. One of the reasons I will forever adore Frank Moorhouse is his generosity toward new writers and people working in publishing. He loved to sit and learn from younger people and to share his immense wisdom and incredible stories. We will all miss him very much.”

Longtime friend Carol Dettmann said Moorhouse was a renowned raconteur,a literary giant and a brilliant and beloved friend.

“Frank was an extraordinary,much-awarded writer who turned his acute observational eye on Australian society in ground-breaking ways,” she said.

Professor Catharine Lumby,at the University of Sydney,has just finished working on a biography of Moorhouse.

She said:“Frank Moorhouse was a literary legend. It was an incredible privilege to have a friendship with him and be his biographer. As always,Frank had to have the last word. I started writing the conclusion to his biography this morning and learnt that he had died.”

Born in 1938,Moorhouse was the youngest of three brothers. He was a prolific writer and political advocate. He married his childhood sweetheart Wendy Halloway at 21. She later went on,after their marriage broke up,to become a prominent journalist and literary editor based in London.

Moorhouse won a cadetship at theDaily Telegraph and soon became part of the Sydney Push – a bohemian,libertarian group opposed to censorship and in favour of sexual liberation and protesting against right-wing politics.

He wrote 18 books,many screenplays and countless essays. He was a life-long activist who supported feminism,advocated for gay liberation and supported Indigenous land rights.

In 1988,his novelForty-Seventeen wonThe Age Book of the Year and the Australian Literature Society’s gold medal (it was also declared the Booker Prize “moral winner” by London magazineBlitz).

In 1985,Moorhouse was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for service to Australian literature.

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Tim Barlass is a senior writer for The Sydney Morning Herald

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