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The Alex Buzo Shortlist Prize (2006-)
Subcategory of Mark and Evette Moran Nib Award for Literature
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History

All authors shortlisted for 'The Nib' in any given year also receive the Alex Buso Shortlist Prize.

Notes

  • This prize honours the playwright Alex Buzo who died in 2006 and who contributed to the establishment of the Westfield/Waverley Library Literary Award. The prize is presented to each shortlisted finalist in the annual Westfield/Waverley Award.

Latest Winners / Recipients

Year: 2021

winner Kate Holden for 'The Winter Road'.
winner y separately published work icon A Letter to Layla : Travels to Our Deep Past and Near Future Ramona Koval , Melbourne : Text Publishing , 2020 20326372 2020 single work prose

'How might the origins of our species inform the way we think about our planet? At a point of unparalleled crisis, can human ingenuity save us from ourselves?

'Much-loved writer Ramona Koval travels the globe in a quest for answers, and encounters the unexpected. She talks to an eminent paleo-archaeologist over a two-million-year-old skull in the Republic of Georgia, meets the next generation of robots in Berlin, attends a festival against death in California and explores an ice-age cave in southern France, speaking with the world’s leading authority on cave art.

'Between these and other adventures she returns to her ever-engaging granddaughter Layla, whose development in infancy spurs Koval to find out what makes us human, what separates us from the other apes.

'Full of revealing exchanges with scientists and writers whose knowledge of the past and visions for the future could hold the key to our next evolution, A Letter to Layla will surprise and delight in equal measure.' (Publication summary)

winner Luke Stegemann for 'Amnesia Road'.
winner y separately published work icon Only Happiness Here : In Search of Elizabeth von Arnim Gabrielle Carey , St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 2020 19629578 2020 single work biography

'Elizabeth von Arnim is one of the early 20th century’s most famous – and forgotten –authors. Born in Sydney in the mid 1800s, she went on to write many internationally bestselling novels, marry a Prussian Count and then an English Lord, nurture close friendships with H.G. Wells and E.M. Forster and raise five children.

'Her novels were ahead of their time in their representation of women and their pursuit of happiness. Intrigued by von Arnim’s extraordinary life and vibrant career, Gabrielle Carey sets off on a literary and philosophical journey to know more about this talented author.

'From the Prime Minister’s Literary Award winner of Moving Among Strangers, Only Happiness Here is part biography, part memoir and part reflection on human nature’s obsession with finding joy.'

Source: Publisher's blurb.

winner y separately published work icon Son of the Brush : A Memoir Tim Olsen , Crows Nest : Allen and Unwin , 2020 19846621 2020 single work autobiography

'Tim Olsen is the son of arguably Australia's most famous living painter, John Olsen. Son of the Brush is his fascinating, candid memoir of what it was like to grow up in the shadow of artistic genius, with all its wonder, excitement and bitter disappointments.

'Tim's childhood was dominated by his father's work, travelling to Europe and to communities around Australia as John sought inspiration and artistic fellowship. Wine, food, conversation and the emerging sexual freedom of the 1960s wove a pattern of life for the family. It was both the best and worst of childhoods, filled with vibrancy and stimulation, yet fraught with anxiety and eventual sadness as John separated from Tim's mother and moved away from the family.

'Yet the course of Tim's life had been set by the experiences of his childhood, and by the passion for art he got from both his father and his mother (an acclaimed painter in her own right). He has made his life about art as well, though following a different path from his parents. Today Tim is one of Australia's most respected art dealers, with a knowledge of art and artists forged from what is literally a lifetime of close experience. Son of the Brush is a memoir about living in the shadow of your father, and what it takes to chart your own course in life, but it is also about the wider world of art, artists and the joy, excitement and sacrifices of the creative life.' (Publication summary)

winner Sarah Krasnostein for 'The Believer'.

Year: 2020

winner y separately published work icon The Stranger Artist : Life at the Edge of the Kimberley Painting Quentin Sprague , South Yarra : Hardie Grant Books , 2019 19761992 2019 single work biography

'At a hinge-point in his life, artist and ex-gallerist Tony Oliver travelled to the East Kimberley, where he plunged into the crosscurrents and eddies of the Aboriginal art world. He would stay for almost a decade, working alongside a group of senior Gija artists, including acclaimed figures Paddy Bedford and Freddie Timms, to establish Jirrawun Arts, briefly one of the country’s most successful and controversial Aboriginal painting collectives.

'The Stranger Artist follows Oliver’s journey and the deep relationships he formed, an experience that forever altered his life’s trajectory. His story will draw readers close to what he came to know of Kimberley life: the immersion of culture and spirituality in the everyday, the importance of Law, the deep and abiding connection to country, and the humour and tragedy that pervade the Aboriginal world.

'Evocative and absorbing in equal measure, The Stranger Artist tells not only of the connections that can be formed through the sharing of mutual interests and experiences, but of what it takes to live between cultures.'

Source: Publisher's blurb.

winner Imre Salusinszky for 'The Hilton Bombing'.
winner y separately published work icon Friends and Rivals : Four Great Australian Writers Brenda Niall , Melbourne : Text Publishing , 2020 17948541 2020 single work biography

'FOUR Australian women writing in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries—a time when stories of bush heroism and mateship abounded, a time when a writing career might be an elusive thing for a woman.

'Friends and Rivals is a vivid and engaging account of the intersecting and entwined lives of Ethel Turner, author of the much loved Seven Little Australians; Barbara Baynton, who wrote of the harshness of bush life; Nettie Palmer, essayist and critic; and Henry Handel Richardson, of The Getting of Wisdom and The Fortunes of Richard Mahoney fame.

'Brenda Niall illuminates a fascinating time in Australia’s literary history and brings to life the remarkable women who made it so.'

Source: Publisher's blurb.

winner y separately published work icon The Deceptions Suzanne Leal , Crows Nest : Allen and Unwin , 2020 18474487 2020 single work novel

'In 1943, a young woman is taken to a Jewish ghetto outside Prague where one of the guards - a Czech gendarme - is quickly drawn to her. Believing he will offer her protection, Hana reluctantly accepts Karel's advances only to find herself alone and abandoned in Auschwitz. Decades later, Karel carries his regrets to Sydney where he and his family try to make a new life for themselves.

'Despite her devotion to the family, Karel's wife is a troubled woman, haunted by a secret that will not leave her as the consequences of her actions as a young woman continue to reverberate both within her family and further afield. Meanwhile, the couple's daughter is still reeling from her husband's infidelities as, unbeknownst to any of them, their cherished granddaughter becomes more and more entangled with her married boss.

'Outwardly harmonious, this is a fractured family whose lives are built on foundations of lies and deceptions - foundations that threaten to completely collapse as old transgressions re-emerge in the lead up to a long-awaited family wedding. Inspired by a true story of wartime betrayal, The Deceptions is a searing, compassionate tale of love and regret within a family whose secrets might better be left alone.' (Publication summary)

winner Rebecca Giggs for 'Fathoms'.

Year: 2019

winner y separately published work icon An Unconventional Wife : The Life of Julia Sorell Arnold Mary Hoban , Brunswick : Scribe , 2019 15606970 2019 single work biography

'Julia Sorell was a colonial belle from Tasmania, vivacious and warm-hearted. Her marriage to Tom Arnold in 1850 propelled her into one of the most renowned families in England and into a circle that included Lewis Carroll and George Eliot. Her eldest daughter became a bestselling novelist, while her grandchildren included the writer Aldous Huxley and the evolutionary biologist Julian Huxley. With these family connections, Julia is a presence in many documented and famous lives, but she is a mostly silent presence.

'What began as a marriage born of desire soon turned into a relationship riven by discord. Tom’s sudden decision to become a Catholic and Julia’s refusal to convert with him plunged their lives into a crisis wherein their great love for each other would be pitted against their profoundly different understandings of marriage and religion. It was a conflict that would play out over three decades in a time when science challenged religion, when democracy challenged aristocracy, when women began to challenge men. It was a conflict that would not only shape their own lives and that of their children, but also touch the lives of all those who came into contact with them.

'Told with the pace, depth, and psychological richness of a great novel, An Unconventional Wife is a riveting biography that shines a shaft of light on a hidden but captivating life.'

Source: Publisher's blurb.

winner y separately published work icon The Arsonist The Arsonist : A Mind on Fire Chloe Hooper , Melbourne : Penguin , 2018 14732249 2018 single work non-fiction crime

'The Arsonist takes readers inside the hunt for a fire-lighter. After Black Saturday, a February 2009 day marked by 47 degree heat and firestorms, arson squad detectives arrived at a plantation on the edge of a 26,000-hectare burn site. Eleven people had just been killed and hundreds made homeless. Here, in the Latrobe Valley, where Victoria’s electricity is generated, and the rates of unemployment, crime and domestic abuse are the highest in the state, more than thirty people were known to police as firebugs. But the detectives soon found themselves on the trail of a man they didn’t know.

'The Arsonist tells a remarkable detective story, as the police close in on someone they believe to be a cunning offender; and a puzzling psychological story, as defence lawyers seek to understand the motives of a man who, they claimed, was a naïf that had accidentally dropped a cigarette.

'It is the story not only of this fire - how it happened, the people who died, the aftermath for the community - but of fire in this country. What it has done, what it has meant, what it might yet do. Bushfire is one of Australia’s deepest anxieties, never more so than when deliberately lit. Arson, wrote Henry Lawson, expresses a malice ‘terrifying to those who have seen what it is capable of. You never know when you are safe.‘

'As she did in The Tall Man, Chloe Hooper takes us to a part of the country seldom explored, and reveals something buried but essential in our national psyche. The bush, summertime, a smouldering cigarette - none of these will feel the same again.'  (Publication summary)

winner y separately published work icon Imperfect Lee Kofman , Mulgrave : Affirm Press , 2019 15392380 2019 single work autobiography

'By the time she was eleven and living in Russia, Lee Kofman had undergone several major operations on both a defective heart and injuries sustained in a bus accident. Her body harbours a constellation of disfiguring scars that have shaped her sense of self and her view of the world. But it wasn't until she moved from the Soviet Union to Israel and later Australia that she realised these markings weren't badges of honour to flaunt but were, in fact, imperfections that needed to be concealed.

'In a seductive mix of memoir and cultural critique, Kofman casts a questioning eye on the myths surrounding our conception of physical perfection and what it's like to live in a body that deviates from the norm. She reveals the subtle ways we are all influenced by the bodies we inhabit, whether our differences are pronounced or noticeable only to ourselves. She talks to people of all shapes, sizes and configurations and takes a hard look at the way media and culture dictates how bodies should and shouldn't be.

'By turns illuminating, confronting and deeply personal, IMPERFECT challenges us all to consider how we exist in the world and how our bodies shape the people we become.'  (Publication summary)

winner Geoff Lemon
winner y separately published work icon Her Mother's Daughter : A Memoir Nadia Wheatley , Melbourne : Text Publishing , 2018 13938951 2018 single work biography

''Why didn’t you and Daddy want people to give you any presents?' I used to ask. But my mother could never be drawn into talking about the wedding. I assumed it was because she did not wish to be reminded of the ghastly mistake she had made in marrying my father.

'AS a child, Nadia Wheatley had a sense of the great divide between her parents, who had met and married while working in Germany on the front line of the Cold War. Growing up in 1950s Australia, the child became a player in their deadly contest. Was she her mother’s daughter, or her father’s creature?

'At the age of ten, the author began writing down her mother’s stories: her Cinderella-like childhood, and her escape into a career as army nurse and refugee aid worker. Fifty years later, the finished memoir is not only a loving tribute but also a social history of twentieth-century Australia, told through the lives of a mother and her daughter.'

Source: Publisher's blurb.

Year: 2018

winner y separately published work icon Relatively Famous Roger Averill , Yarraville : Transit Lounge , 2018 13864709 2018 single work novel

'Michael and Majorie Madigan refuse to be interviewed by biographer Sinclair Hughes  for his new book Inside the Lion's Den: The Literary Life of Gilbert Madigan. This is not surprising as Gilbert is Marjorie's ex- husband and Michael's mostly absent father.

'In Roger Averill's brilliantly conceived  new novel, Relatively Famous, Gilbert  Madigan is Australia's first Booker Prize winner, a feted and much lauded author that the U.K. and U.S. now likes to call their own. Michael cannot escape his father's life and work, and at times his own life seems swallowed by it. His father's success is a source of undeniable pleasure but also of great turmoil. How  does one live in the shadow of a famous relative who we never seem to be able to live up to?

'In a world increasingly obsessed  with  fame and celebrity, this engrossing  novel subtly explores  notions of success , masculinity, betrayal and loss, and ultimately what it might mean to live a good life.' (Publication summary)

winner y separately published work icon Eggshell Skull Bri Lee , Crows Nest : Allen and Unwin , 2018 13717214 2018 single work autobiography

'EGGSHELL SKULL: A well-established legal doctrine that a defendant must 'take their victim as they find them'. If a single punch kills someone because of their thin skull, that victim's weakness cannot mitigate the seriousness of the crime.

'But what if it also works the other way? What if a defendant on trial for sexual crimes has to accept his 'victim' as she comes: a strong, determined accuser who knows the legal system, who will not back down until justice is done?

'Bri Lee began her first day of work at the Queensland District Court as a bright-eyed judge's associate. Two years later she was back as the complainant in her own case.

'This is the story of Bri's journey through the Australian legal system; first as the daughter of a policeman, then as a law student, and finally as a judge's associate in both metropolitan and regional Queensland -- where justice can look very different, especially for women. The injustice Bri witnessed, mourned and raged over every day finally forced her to confront her own personal history, one she'd vowed never to tell. And this is how, after years of struggle, she found herself on the other side of the courtroom, telling her story.

'Bri Lee has written a fierce and eloquent memoir that addresses both her own reckoning with the past as well as with the stories around her, to speak the truth with wit, empathy and unflinching courage. Eggshell Skull is a haunting appraisal of modern Australia from a new and essential voice.' (Source: Publisher's blurb)

winner y separately published work icon The Trauma Cleaner The Trauma Cleaner : One Woman’s Extraordinary Life in Death, Decay & Disaster Sarah Krasnostein , Melbourne : Text Publishing , 2017 11873511 2017 single work biography

'I call my dad from the car and ask him about his morning, tell him about mine.

'‘What kind of hoarder was she?’ he asks.

'‘Books and cats, mainly,’ I tell the man who loves his cats and who I know is now actively considering his extensive book collection.

'‘What’s the difference between a private library and a book hoarder?’ he wonders.

'We are both silent before we laugh and answer in unison: ‘Faeces.’

'But the difference is this phone call. And the others like it I could make—and how strong we are when we are loved.

'Before she was a trauma cleaner, Sandra Pankhurst was many things: husband and father, drag queen, gender reassignment patient, sex worker, small businesswoman, trophy wife…

'But as a little boy, raised in violence and excluded from the family home, she just wanted to belong. Now she believes her clients deserve no less.

'A woman who sleeps among garbage she has not put out for forty years. A man who bled quietly to death in his loungeroom. A woman who lives with rats, random debris and terrified delusion. The still life of a home vacated by accidental overdose.

'Sarah Krasnostein has watched the extraordinary Sandra Pankhurst bring order and care to these, the living and the dead—and the book she has written is equally extraordinary. Not just the compelling story of a fascinating life among lives of desperation, but an affirmation that, as isolated as we may feel, we are all in this together.'

Source: Publisher's blurb.

Year: 2017

winner y separately published work icon Ghost Empire Richard Fidler , Sydney South : HarperCollins Australia , 2016 9458193 2016 single work prose travel

'Ghost Empire is a rare treasure - an utterly captivating blend of the historical and the contemporary, realised by a master storyteller.

In 2014, Richard Fidler and his son Joe made a journey to Istanbul. Fired by Richard's passion for the rich history of the dazzling Byzantine Empire - centred around the legendary Consantinople - we are swept into some of the most extraordinary tales in history. The clash of civilizations, the fall of empires, the rise of Christianity, revenge, lust, murder. Turbulent stories from the past are brought vividly to life at the same time as a father navigates the unfolding changes in his relationship with his son.

'Ghost Empire is a revelation: a beautifully written ode to a lost civilization, and a warmly observed father-son adventure far from home.' (Publication summary)

winner y separately published work icon Brett Whiteley : Art, Life and the Other Thing Ashleigh Wilson , Melbourne : Text Publishing , 2016 9753181 2016 single work biography

'When he died in 1992 Brett Whiteley left behind decades of ceaseless activity—some works bound to a particular place or time, others that are masterpieces of light and line.

'Whiteley had arrived in Europe in 1960 determined to make an impression. Before long he was the youngest artist to have work acquired by the Tate. With his wife, Wendy, and daughter, Arkie, Whiteley then immersed himself in bohemian New York. But within two years he fled, having failed to break through.

'Back in Sydney, he soon became Australia’s most celebrated artist. He won the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman prizes in the same year—his prices soared, as did his fame. Among his friends were Francis Bacon and Patrick White, Billy Connolly and Dire Straits. Yet addiction was taking its toll: Whiteley struggled in vain to separate his talent from his disease, and an inglorious end approached.

'Written with unprecedented behind-the-scenes access, and handsomely illustrated with classic Whiteley artworks, rare notebook sketches and candid family photos, this dazzling biography reveals for the first time the full portrait of a mercurial artist.' (Publication summary)

Works About this Award

Undercover Susan Wyndham , 2012 single work column
— Appears in: The Sydney Morning Herald , 10-11 November 2012; (p. 29)
A column canvassing current literary news including the projected annual appointment of a critic to the Australian Book Review periodical; announcement of the Big Fat Poetry Pig-Out event by Hampress, 2 December 2012; the winners of the Waverley Library Award for Literature, Alex Buzo Shortlist Prize, 2012; and the New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards, People's Choice Award shortlist.
Buzo Honoured Angela Bennie , 2006 single work column
— Appears in: The Sydney Morning Herald , 7-8 October 2006; (p. 30)
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