Winners of the 2011 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards Announced

Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Arts Minister, Simon Crean, today announced the winners of the 2011 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards.

FICTION:

WINNER: Traitor – Stephen Daisley

In the battle-smoke and chaos of Gallipoli, a young New Zealand soldier helps a Turkish doctor fighting to save a boy’s life. Then a shell bursts nearby; the blast that should have killed them both consigns them instead to the same military hospital.
Mahmoud is a Sufi. A whirling dervish, he says, of the Mevlevi order. He tells David stories: of arriving in London with a pocketful of dried apricots; of Majnun, the man mad for love; and of the saint who flew to paradise on a lion skin. You are God, we are all gods, Mahmoud tells David; and a bond grows between them. A bond so strong that David will betray his country for his friend.

Stephen Daisley’s astonishing debut novel is a story of war and of love—how each changes everything, forever. Evoking horror and beauty and a profound sense of the possibility of transformation, Traitor is that rarest of things: a work of fiction that will transport the reader, heart and soul, into another realm.

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Biography

Stephen Daisley was born in New Zealand in 1955. He has served in the New Zealand Army and worked at a variety of jobs in New Zealand and Australia including on sheep and cattle stations, cutting bush and scrub, driving trucks, doing road works and bar work, and on oil and gas construction sites. Traitor is his first novel. He now lives in Perth.

Judges’ Comments

Stephen Daisley’s first novel, Traitor is brilliant, poignant and provoking. Its tactile, redolent evocation of the physical world of sheep-farming in New Zealand and of warfare at Gallipoli—while this recalls material in many Australian novels—is also and utterly distinctive. Myths and propaganda are quietly set aside. The moral imperatives to which rare (and in this case reticent) individuals can attend are strikingly set forth. Here is another arresting renovation of what maleness—and decency in anyone—might be.

Click here to order your copy of Traitor

FICTION RUNNERS UP:

Notorious – Roberta Lowing

She came walking out of the desert, just as the famous poet had centuries before. Impossible for them both to have survived that relentless furnace, that destroyer of all life.

Now the nameless woman lies horribly scarred and close to death in an Asylum deep in the North African desert. An Australian official, a man code-named John Devlin, has come to question her, despite the protests of her carers. It is clear that the woman and Devlin share some kind of past, and all kinds of secrets – but the greatest secret is the one she will die to protect.

As the wind calls up a deadly sandstorm, the inhabitants of the Asylum discover they are linked by a diary written by the poet Rimbaud, who in 1890 also confronted the implacable power of the desert. Over the next one hundred and twenty years, everyone who sees the diary will want it. Most will do anything to possess it.

For some, like ruthless Polish aristocrat Aleksander Walenska, the diary holds secrets that will bring him riches and power. For his troubled and religious son Czeslaw, it is a book of death, a penance to be fulfilled by sacrifice. For Czeslaw’s sister, it is a book of the desert which, if returned to its rightful home, will redeem her family’s name. For Devlin, broken by his own ghosts, and with one final chance to make amends, the diary is worthless; the desert not a place of revelation, but the birthplace of modern terrorism.

Only the woman, whose dark past is entwined with those who would possess the diary at any cost, sees the true worth of the book.

Click here to order your copy of Notorious

When Colts Ran – Roger McDonald

In this sweeping epic of friendship, toil, hope and failed promise, multi-award-winning author Roger McDonald follows the story of Kingsley Colts as he chases the ghost of himself through the decades, and in and out of the lives and affections of the citizens of ‘The Isabel’, a slice of Australia scattered with prospectors, artists, no-hopers and visionaries. Against this spacious backdrop of sheep stations, timeless landscapes and the Five Alls pub, men play out their fates, conduct their rivalries and hope for the best.

Major Dunc Buckler, ‘misplaced genius and authentic ratbag’, scours the country for machinery in a World War that will never find him. Wayne Hovell, slave to ‘moral duty’, carries the physical and emotional scars of Colts’s early rebellion, but also finds himself the keeper of his redemption. Normie Powell, son of a rugby-playing minister, finds his own mysticism as a naturalist, while warm-hearted stock dealer Alan Hooke longs for understanding in a house full of women. They are men shaped by the obligations and expectations of a previous generation, all striving to define themselves in their own language, on their own terms.

When Colts Ran, written in Roger McDonald’s rich and piercingly observant style, in turns humorous and hard-bitten, charts the ebb and flow of human fortune, and our fraught desire to leave an indelible mark on society and those closest to us. It shows how loyalties shape us in the most unexpected ways. It is the story of how men ‘strike at beauty’ as they fall to the earth.

Click here to order your copy of When Colts Ran

Glissando – David Musgrave

When it comes to looking back over his life, Archie Fliess has got some understanding to do. So begins a sprawling reflection on his life during the early twentieth century, from the day the fortunes of brothers Archie and Reggie changed when they were taken to be the rightful owners of the property built by their grandfather in country NSW.

Along their journey they are introduced to an odd collection of family and caretakers, who don’t always have the best interests of the boys at heart. Archie becomes embroiled in the mystery surrounding his grandfather’s life, and as the two stories—Archie’s and his grandfather’s—unravel, we see familiar themes of disappointment and failed ambition.

Click here to order your copy of Glissando

That Deadman Dance – Kim Scott

Big-hearted, moving and richly rewarding, That Deadman Dance is set in the first decades of the 19th century in the area around what is now Albany, Western Australia. In playful, musical prose, the book explores the early contact between the Aboriginal Noongar people and the first European settlers.

The novel’s hero is a young Noongar man named Bobby Wabalanginy. Clever, resourceful and eager to please, Bobby befriends the new arrivals, joining them hunting whales, tilling the land, exploring the hinterland and establishing the fledgling colony. He is even welcomed into a prosperous local white family where he falls for the daughter, Christine, a beautiful young woman who sees no harm in a liaison with a native.

But slowly – by design and by accident – things begin to change. Not everyone is happy with how the colony is developing. Stock mysteriously start to disappear; crops are destroyed; there are “accidents” and injuries on both sides. As the Europeans impose ever stricter rules and regulations in order to keep the peace, Bobby’s Elders decide they must respond in kind. A friend to everyone, Bobby is forced to take sides: he must choose between the old world and the new, his ancestors and his new friends. Inexorably, he is drawn into a series of events that will forever change not just the colony but the future of Australia…

Click here to order your copy of That Deadman Dance

Non-fiction

WINNER: The Hard Light of Day, Rod Moss

A story of whitefella–blackfella friendship that offers hope for the future.

Two years after artist Rod Moss arrived in Alice Springs to teach painting, he met a married couple who had set up camp in the gully beside his flat. Over the next twenty-five years, his friendship with Xavier and Petrina Neil and the friendships that grew from it with the families of Whitegate, an Arrernte camp on the outskirts of town, would nourish and challenge Moss beyond his imagining.

The Hard Light of Day offers a rare insight into the reality of life in the Centre, from the contours of the MacDonnell Ranges and the textures and sounds of Arrernte culture, to the endemic violence, alcoholism and ill-health that continue to devastate Aboriginal lives. In recalling the relationships and experiences that have shaped his life and work in Alice Springs, Moss unsentimentally reveals the human face behind the statistics and celebrates the enriching, transformative power of friendship.

Illustrated with Moss’s evocative paintings and photographs, The Hard Light of Day is an incredible journey into a world never shown in the mainstream media, and an artist’s chronicle of the moments that have inspired him.

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Runners up:

Young adult fiction

WINNER: Graffiti Moon, Cath Crowley

Lucy is in love with Shadow, a mysterious graffiti artist.

Ed thought he was in love with Lucy, until she broke his nose.

Dylan loves Daisy, but throwing eggs at her probably wasn’t the best way to show it.

Jazz and Leo are slowly encircling each other.

An intense and exhilarating 24 hours in the lives of four teenagers on the verge: of adulthood, of HSC, of finding out just who they are, and who they want to be.

A lyrical new YA novel from the award-winning author of Chasing Charlie Duskin and the Gracie Faltrain series.

About the Author

Cath Crowley grew up in rural Victoria. She comes from a family of seven: her parents, three brothers and a dog called Elvis. All of them encouraged her to give up full-time teaching to write. Cath studied professional writing and editing at RMIT and works as both a freelance writer in Melbourne and a part-time teacher. She has lived and taught overseas but now lives in Kingsville in Melbourne. Graffiti Moon is Cath’s fifth novel, following the three Gracie Faltrain novels and the award-winning Chasing Charlie Duskin.

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Runners up:

Children’s fiction

WINNER: Shake a Leg, Boori Monty Pryor and Jan Ormerod

A unique picture book collaboration about having fun, sharing culture and the power of story and dance. A picture book to get the whole town dancing.

From pizza shop to bora ground, here is a joyous celebration of food, dance and cultural understanding. When three young boys go to a pizza parlour and meet an Aboriginal chef who can speak Italian and make a deadly pizza, they’re in for a surprise!
All you fellas watching, come up, join in, warrima.
Clap your hands, little ones.
Stamp your feet, nannas.
Get down and dance, you smart young things, mummas and daddas.
Let’s get the whole town dancing!
Boori Monty Pryor is a storyteller, dancer, writer and educator, and Jan Ormerod is an internationally acclaimed picture-book author and illustrator. This glorious book is the first one they have cooked up together.

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Runners up:

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