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Dessaix, Robert (b. 1944)  
page: 1  2  

The narrator is soon adopted by the community of expatriates on Corfu, a colorful assortment of people. Through flashbacks we learn of the beginning of the romance between the narrator and William, when they were both involved with a London production of Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard, and the difficulties that ensued. William finally makes it to Corfu, but the narrator and he decide not to continue the romance.

To lift their lives out of the ordinary, a desire the narrator thinks all people entertain, to have something unexpected happen, like the naked Ulysses surprising the maiden Naussica, he and William convince the expatriates to stage a production of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya. In an epilogue, the narrator returns to Corfu to visit Kester Berrick's grave.

Both novels display Dessaix's mastery of language. Through his narrators Dessaix is able to showcase his interest in a great many topics and especially his love of Chekhov, although the novels are liberally peppered with other literary allusions as well. The novels established Dessaix as a serious voice in gay literature.

Dessaix is also the editor of Australian Gay and Lesbian Writing: An Anthology (1993), and Speaking Their Minds: Intellectuals and Public Culture in Australia (1998). In 1998 he published (and so forth), a collection of short stories, essays, literary criticism, and travel pieces. The book is evocative and provocative and emphasizes the themes he explores in his novels, especially intimacy, art, death, and how to lead a meaningful life.

Dessaix's latest publication Twilight of Love: Travels with Turgenev (2005) won the Margaret Scott prize awarded by the University of Tasmania. It records another journey. Here Dessaix retraces the path taken by the nineteenth-century Russian writer Ivan Turgenev as he pursued with unwavering devotion the married opera singer Pauline Viardot. Dessaix also comments on contemporary Russia now overrun with Western corporate culture. As in his other books, in Twilight of Love Dessaix constantly shifts from background and foreground; and like his other books, it is also distinguished by entrancing prose.

Dessaix's writings feature lost, psychologically crippled people who have intimacy problems. They are uncertain if love is even possible. His characters live with the awareness of death and seek to use art and beauty as means of making sense of the meaninglessness of their existence.

Dessaix has been open about his positive HIV-status for the past ten years. He and Timms now reside in Tasmania.

Leland Wheeler

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Bartolini, Paolo. "Travelling with Dante and Sterne: A Conversation with Robert Dessaix." Antipodes 13.1 (June 1999): 21-24.

Craven, Peter. "Me and My Spirit: A Review of Robert Dessaix's (And So Forth)." Sydney Morning Herald Spectrum (November 14, 1998): 11.

Cummins, Ian. "Love and Death: Ian Cummins, Melbourne-based Historian of Russia Reflects on the European Sojourns of a Fellow Australian Writer and Russianist in Pursuit of the Peripatetic Novelist Ivan Turgenev." Meanjin 64.1-2 (2005): 38-44.

Dessaix, Robert. A Mother's Disgrace. Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1994.

Green, Stephanie. "Review: Corfu by Robert Dessaix." API Review of Books (Australian Public Intellectual Network). (December 2001-January 2002):

Harris, Samela. "Profile/Robert Dessaix." The Advertiser (Adelaide, Australia) (February 21, 2004): Magazine, W03.

Lecks, Phil. "An Interview with Robert Dessaix." Total Carboard Issue 8 (January 2007):

McMahon, Dorothy McRae. "Interview with Robert Dessaix." Sunday Nights with JohnCleary. Australian Broadcasting Corporation Network (Australia) (December 8, 2001):

Mercer, Gina. "Masquerade of the Tiny Leaden Ball: An Epistolary Meditation on Robert Dessaix's Night Letters." Outskirts: feminisms along the edge 14 (2006):

Pela, Robert L. "Review: Night Letters by Robert Dessaix." The Advocate (December 9, 1997): 79.


    Citation Information
    Author: Wheeler, Leland  
    Entry Title: Dessaix, Robert  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2007  
    Date Last Updated October 17, 2007  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2007 glbtq, Inc.  


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