105. Harcourt, J. M. (John Mewton), 1902-1971

Upsurge : a novel / by J.M. Harcourt. (London : John Long Limited, [1934])

Upsurge : a novel

John Harcourt was born in Melbourne but worked in the early 1920s in the pearling industry in Broome. He then went to Perth where he worked as a newspaper journalist.

His first novel, The Pearlers was published in 1933. Upsurge, his second novel, created a controversy when it appeared in 1934. Harcourt's intention had been to produce a socialist-realist novel describing the effects of the depression in Western Australia. The book describes strikes, and life in relief camps.

Contemporary reviewers noted the "Communist agitators, crude caricatures of magistrates and business magnates", and the police, who "are made to behave like a lot of Bashi-Bazooks."

However, the reviewers seemed even more interested in the descriptions of "petting parties". Another reviewer wrote that Harcourt "has taken the misguidedly bold course of giving his story an overpowering taint of the sexual." The same reviewer shrewdly noted,

The sort of stuff in Upsurge may have provided excitement of some sort to the author in the writing of it: it may provide excitement for some of his readers - those who carry prohibited Parisian picture-cards in their pocket wallets and scribble on walls.

The book was published in March 1934. It had provoked controversy, both for its sexual content and for its advocacy of worker revolution. In July 1934, the book was seized by Perth detectives. It was also seized in Sydney. This led to its banning federally on 20 November 1934 on grounds of indecency.

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