Last night I went to a party at Allen & Unwin’s offices in Crows Nest. There I met a great many wonderful people – writers, booksellers, journalists, publishers, cereal manufacturers… Yep, it was the Vogels.
Man Booker Prize winner Eleanor Catton was on hand to announce the winner. She spoke well, her strong Kiwi accent assuring all in the room we can never get away with claiming her as one of our own (nor can Canada, for that matter).
The winner was announced – After Darkness by Christine Piper. In her acceptance speech Christine admitted to having known of her win for nine months.
It is part of the new structure of the Vogels. The winner and the shortlisters are told the decision of the judges well in advance of the public announcement to give the Allen and Unwin time to edit and publish the winning book. In past years the winner was announced and the public had to wait months and months for the book to become available. In our era of sound bites, this model cannot work, so they changed it.
The winner was announced last night, the book is available today.
Which means Christine Piper’s life changing news had to kept from friends and family for nine long months (she did share the news with her husband, she revealed). That is a BIG secret to keep.
And think of the shortlisters! Imagine the well wishers over that nine months, good hearted people, doing what they thought was the right thing, encouraging the shortlister, who, knowing the dark truth, can only return these enthusiasms with a non-committal expression for fear of giving the game away. Thank goodness writers aren’t sensitive folk. Oh, wait…
Enough of that, a big congratulations must go to Christine. We can’t wait to read AFTER DARKNESS.
When accepting the award, Christine said:
The Australian/Vogel’s Literary Award is a rare and generous thing, a means for unknown writers, such as I, to have a shot at success.
In many ways, modern Australia is built on immigrant’s tales, and Vogel’s founder Niels, a Danish immigrant, created his own story when he established the award as a way of giving back to his adopted community. So I feel as if I’m adding to the diversity as a half Japanese Australian, born in Korea, now living in New York, who writes about Japanese immigrants.
When I started working on this novel, five years ago, I was still in my twenties, had never published a piece of fiction, yet had an ambitious dream to write a novel from the point of view of a Japanese internee. Now I’m older, wearier, and pushing the middle aged category of writer, yet thanks to this award I’m absolutely looking forward to what lies ahead.
AFTER DARKNESS: It is early 1942 and Australia is in the midst of war.
While working at a Japanese hospital in the pearling port of Broome, Dr Ibaraki is arrested as an enemy alien and sent to Loveday internment camp in a remote corner of South Australia. There, he learns to live among a group of men divided by culture and allegiance.
As tensions at the isolated camp escalate, the doctor’s long-held beliefs are thrown into question and he is forced to confront his dark past: the promise he made in Japan and its devastating consequences.
‘A brave, profound meditation on identity, trauma, loss and courage… reminds us that there are two sides to every war and that history never ceases to be written… A novel that demands its place alongside Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Mark Dapin’s Spirit House.’ – Stephen Romei, The Australian
‘Piper draws us deeper and deeper into the compelling story of Tomakazu Ibaraki, a man whose strengths – discretion, honour and loyalty – also lie at the heart of his personal tragedy.’ – Danielle Wood, winner of The Australian/Vogel’s Literary Award in 2002
‘After Darkness is about friendships that transcend cliched notions of mateship. It’s also about a man silenced by a promise … a haunting novel that lingers in a most unsettling way.’ – Fiona Stager, bookseller, Avid Reader
About Christine Piper:
Christine Piper’s short fiction has been published in Seizure, SWAMP and Things That Are Found in Trees and Other Stories. She was the 2013 Alice Hayes writing fellow at Ragdale in the United States. She has studied creative writing at Macquarie University, the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the University of Technology, Sydney, where she wrote a version of this novel as part of her doctoral degree. She has also worked as a magazine editor and writer for more than a decade.
Born in South Korea in 1979 to an Australian father and a Japanese mother, she moved to Australia when she was one. She has previously taught English and studied Japanese in Japan, and currently lives in New York with her husband. After Darkness is her first novel.