Hal Porter

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Harold Edward (Hal) Porter (16 February 1911 – 29 September 1984) was an Australian novelist, playwright, poet and short-story writer.

Porter was born in Albert Park, Victoria,[1] grew up in Bairnsdale, Victoria and worked as a journalist, teacher and librarian.[2] A car accident just before the outbreak of war prevented him from serving in World War II. His first stories were published in 1942 and by the 1960s he was writing full-time. His 1963 memoir, The Watcher on the Cast Iron Balcony, is regarded as an Australian masterpiece.

His other works were less successful. The literary critic Laurie Clancy said: "Porter's novels are, with one exception, less successful than his stories, not least because his scorn for most of his characters becomes wearying over the length of a novel." The exception, Clancy thought, was The Tilted Cross, a historical novel set in Hobart in the 1840s.[3]

After Porter's death, his friend and biographer Mary Lord revealed in her book Hal Porter: Man of Many Parts that Porter had had sexual relations with Lord's then ten-year-old son; despite this, she chose to remain friends with him.



Short stories

  • A Bachelor's Children (1962)
  • Short Stories (1942)
  • The Cats of Venice (1965)
  • The Actors: An image of the new Japan (1968)
  • Mr. Butterfry and Other Tales of New Japan (1970)
  • Selected Stories (1971)
  • Fredo Fuss Love Life (1974)
  • The Portable Hal Porter (1978)
  • The Clairvoyant Goat (1981)


  • The Hexagon (1956)
  • Elijah's Ravens (1968)
  • In an Australian Graveyard (1974)


  • The Watcher on the Cast-Iron Balcony (1963)
  • The Paper Chase (1966)
  • Criss-Cross (1973)
  • The Extra (1975)
  • Bairnsdale: Portrait of an Australian country town (1977)


External links[edit]


Craven, Peter. "Porter: friend and betrayer," The Australian, 15–16 January 1994, Review 3.

Mary Lord: Hal Porter: Man of Many Parts (Random House, Sydney, 1993)

Noel Rowe: '"No one but I will know": Hal Porter's Honesty', in Australian Humanities Review, Issue 41, February 2007

  1. ^ Hal Porter Britannica Online Accessed: 21 October 2007
  2. ^ Porter, Hal (AustLit) Accessed: 14 February 2007.
  3. ^ Laurie Clancy, A Reader's Guide to Australian Fiction, Oxford, Melbourne, 1992, p. 186.