Australian author and essayist Frank Moorhouse dies at 83

Frank Moorhouse, the Australian literary giant best known for the Edith trilogy, has died at the age of 83.

Moorhouse died Sunday at a Sydney hospital.

His biographer said that Moorhouse sought to push the boundaries of what was considered acceptable in society at the time.

Moorhouse was born in Nowra on the south coast of New South Wales in 1938 and spent his childhood in nearby Jaspers Brush.

He moved to Sydney at the age of 17 to become a cadet at the Daily Telegraph.

By the time he was 30, he became a full-time writer, publishing 18 books in his lifetime.

University of Sydney academic Catharine Lumby, author of an upcoming biography on Moorhouse, said one of the themes of his writing was the push for more freedoms.

“Frank was fascinated with how we can preserve as much freedom as possible,” Professor Lumby said.

“[His work asked] how many rules we have to put in the limits of what we do to prevent us from tempting ourselves in the forests of hedonism”.


She said that the embodiment of this fascination was her character Edith Campbell Berry, the central figure of her Edith trilogy.

“I think there is a lot of Frank in Edith,” Professor Lumby said.

“The readers often talk about how much they love Edith, Edith’s character.

“And I think the other thing that is like Frank, is that Edith is fascinated with how many rules we need to live by.”

The second book in the trilogy, Dark Palace, won the Miles Franklin Literary Award in 2001 after Moorhouse was made a Member of the Order of Australia for service to Australian literature in 1985.

Frank Moorhouse was a prolific writer who wrote 18 books.(ABC Illawarra: Nick McLaren)

Lifetime connection with Nowra

Despite living most of his life in Sydney, Moorhouse’s connection to Shoalhaven was lifelong.

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“He was very attached to the south coast,” Professor Lumby said.

“He would go and walk there all the time. He was an avid walker.

“He came to Sydney at the age of 17 as a cadet. [and] he definitely felt like a mountain boy in the middle of the big smoke.

In Twitter tributes following her death, friend and director of Adelaide Writers Week, Louise Adler, wrote:

“A superb piece of work culminating in a truly great trilogy by Edith, passionate anti-censorship advocate, staunch defender of our literary culture, and splendid dining companion.”

ABC writer and political commentator Annabel Crabb said:

“I will never forget reading his stories as a teenager in my country town and recognizing for the first time how brilliant his writing was.


His niece Karin Moorehouse simply wrote:

“Okay Uncle Frank, you leave a big hole in our hearts.”

A memorial service for Frank Moorhouse will be held in Sydney and a private funeral in Nowra.

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