Archives and Special Collections hold an array of material relating to Meanjin. The original archive from the editorship of Clem Christesen is held along with archival material from many of the subsequent editors. Runs of the magazine along with other books and magazines held in the Meanjin office are also available. We hold the original printing blocks for the illustrations and many of Louis Kahan’s original sketches used in the magazine.
“At times arcane, gratuitous, elitist and puffed with a sense of importance, literary magazines have influenced intellectual history to an extent that could not be predicted from their usually modest subscription lists and variable fortunes. They have evinced a disproportionate power to annoy, to be a thorn in the side of conventional opinion, an itch under the skin of complacent conscience.” (Just City and the Mirrors, OUP, 1984, p.1)
Meanjin emerged in a time of war, it started small, hailing from Brisbane, promoting Queensland writers, but its first editor Clem Christesen always had bolder plans. Within a few years, the content had broadened to include writers from all over Australia and by 1945, the journal had moved headquarters to Melbourne. Under the somewhat strained auspices of Melbourne University, Meanjin flourished. A quarterly journal that leaned to the left, it would attract an equal quotient of high level of intellectual input and establishment crack-down.
Naming the journal Meanjin, taken from the indigenous name for the land on which Brisbane sits, Christesen believed in a ‘national consciousness’ that would promote a more unified and free-thinking post-war Australia. In an unfortunate turn of events, the Cold War created a suspicious and right-thinking government; Clem and Nina Christesen were even being brought in as witnesses to the Royal Commission on Espionage in 1955, under suspicion of communist activities.
Clem remained the editor from 1940 to 1974, an amazing thirty four year stint. Against very strong odds, Meanjin still survives, now published by Melbourne University Press. There have been nine other general editors, each bringing their own vision, and ten poetry editors.
Meanjin is still published with social issues and creative work still at the forefront.