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Winners

2019 winner y separately published work icon Half the Perfect World : Writers, Dreamers and Drifters on Hydra, 1955–1964 Paul Genoni , Tanya Dalziell , Clayton : Monash University Publishing , 2018 14983146 2018 multi chapter work biography

''Their years in the Aegean may have been half perfect at best, but it was on Hydra that they connected to a place, a lifestyle and a community that allowed them to live and express themselves intensely, and as they wished. They refused to believe their dreams were an illusion, or that boldness, ambition and a leap-of-faith might not allow them to reach beyond the constraints of their birthright'.

'Half the Perfect World tells the story of the post-war international artist community that formed on the Greek island of Hydra. Most famously, it included renowned singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen and his partner Marianne Ihlen, as well as many other artists and writers including the Australian literary couple, Charmian Clift and George Johnston, who fostered this fabled colony.

'Drawing on many previously unseen letters, manuscripts and diaries, and richly illustrated by the eyewitness photographs of LIFE magazine photo-journalist James Burke, Half the Perfect World reveals the private lives and relationships of the Hydra expatriates. It charts the promise of a creative life that drew many of them to the island, and documents the fracturing of the community as it came under pressure from personal ambitions and wider social changes. For all the unrealised youthful ambitions, internal strife and personal tragedy that attends this story, the authors nonetheless find that the example of these writers, dreamers and drifters continues to resonate and inspire.' (Publication summary)

2017 winner y separately published work icon Quicksilver Nicolas Rothwell , Melbourne : Text Publishing , 2016 9798117 2016 single work prose travel

'Quicksilver begins on a quiet day in contemplation of a lizard deep in the heart of the outback but quickly moves to the Russia of Tolstoy and Gorky, and on to other lands and times, bringing into play universal questions about the essential nature of the human condition.'

'Rothwell’s chief subject is always the inland: the mystic Kurangara cult that flourished in the Kimberley; the story of the Western Desert artists, their works and their eventual fate; the tracks across the wilderness of Colonel Warburton and George Grey; the bush dreams and intuitions of D. H. Lawrence and the landscape word-portraits by the great biographer of nature Eric Rolls.'

'In Quicksilver Rothwell masterfully takes us in search of the sacred through place and time, in an enchanting reverie of calm wondering.' (Source: Text Publishing website)

2015 joint winner y separately published work icon Wild Bleak Bohemia : Marcus Clarke, Adam Lindsay Gordon and Henry Kendall - A Documentary Michael Wilding , North Melbourne : Australian Scholarly Publishing , 2014 8265498 2014 single work biography

'Meticulously using contemporary newspaper reports, court records, published memoirs, private letters and diaries, Michael Wilding tells the story of three troubled geniuses of Australian writing and their world of poetry and poverty, alcohol and opiates, horse-racing and theatre, journalism and publishing. Gordon shot himself, unable to pay the printer of his poems; Kendall ended up in a mental hospital after forging a cheque, and Clarke died bankrupt for a second time.' (Publication summary)

2015 joint winner y separately published work icon John Olsen : An Artist's Life Darleen Bungey , Sydney : ABC Books , 2014 8070118 2014 single work biography

'This landmark biography by Darleen Bungey, the author of the celebrated biography of Arthur Boyd, graphically depicts the forces that drove John Olsen to become one of the country's greatest artists. An exhilarating book, both trenchant and tender, it strips away the veneer of showmanship and fame to show the substance of a painter driven by a need to depict his country's landscape as Australians had never seen it before.

'Given access to his uncensored diaries and drawing on years of extensive interviews with both Olsen and those who have known him best, she explores his passionate life and follows his navigation though the friendships, rivalries and politics of the Australian art world. How did a shy, stuttering boy from Newcastle, neglected by his alcoholic father, come to paint the great mural Salute to Five Bells at the Sydney Opera House?

'This biography follows that journey - through Olsen's early experiences in the bush, particularly a formative period at Yass (a time previously unrecorded), to years of cleaning jobs to pay his way through art school, to a milestone time spent in France and Spain - and traces his constant travels and relocations within Australia, including his epic journeys into the outback and to Kati thanda-Lake Eyre.

'From a child who was never taken to an art gallery, who learnt how to draw from comics, we come to see the famous artist in the black beret, the writer and poet, the engaging public speaker, the bon vivant - whose life has been defined by an absolute need to paint.' (Publication summary)

2014 joint winner y separately published work icon Madeleine : A Life of Madeleine St. John Helen Trinca , Melbourne : Text Publishing , 2013 Z1926171 2013 single work biography 'At the age of fifteen Madeleine saw herself as a painter and pianist, but Ms Medway peered down at Madeleine during her entrance interview in 1957 and announced: 'You know dear, I think you might write.'

Madeleine would write. But not for some time. The Women in Black, a sparkling gem that belied the difficulties that had dogged her own life, was published when Madeleine St John was in her fifties. Her third novel, The Essence of the Thing, was shortlisted for the 1997 Booker Prize, and she continued to write until her death in 2006.

Helen Trinca has captured the troubled life of Madeleine St John in this moving account of a remarkable writer. After the death of her mother when Madeleine was just twelve, she struggled to find her place in the world. Estranging herself from her family, and from Australia, she lived for a time in the US before moving to London where Robert Hughes, Germaine Greer, Bruce Beresford, Barry Humphries and Clive James were making their mark. In 1993, when The Women in Black was published, it became clear what a marvellous writer Madeleine St John was.
With Gabrielle Carey's Moving Among Strangers.
2014 joint winner y separately published work icon Moving Among Strangers : Randolph Stow and My Family Gabrielle Carey , St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 2013 6388884 2013 single work biography

'Two literary lives defined by storytelling and secrets

'As her mother Joan lies dying, Gabrielle Carey writes a letter to Joan’s childhood friend, the reclusive novelist Randolph Stow. This letter sets in motion a literary pilgrimage that reveals long-buried family secrets. Like her mother, Stow had grown up in Western Australia. After early literary success and a Miles Franklin Award win in 1958 for his novel To the Islands, he left for England and a life of self-imposed exile.

'Living most of her life on the east coast, Gabrielle was also estranged from her family’s west Australian roots, but never questioned why. A devoted fan of Stow’s writing, she becomes fascinated by his connection with her extended family, but before she can meet him he dies. With only a few pieces of correspondence to guide her, Gabrielle embarks on a journey from the red-dirt landscape of Western Australia to the English seaside town of Harwich in a quest to understand her family’s past and Stow’s place in it.

'Moving Among Strangers is a celebration of one of Australia’s most enigmatic and visionary writers.'

With Helen Trinca's Madeleine: A Life of Madeleine St John.
2012 winner y separately published work icon An Eye for Eternity : The Life of Manning Clark Mark McKenna , Carlton North : Melbourne University Press , 2011 Z1776387 2011 single work biography Manning Clark was a complex, demanding and brilliant man. Mark McKenna's compelling biography of this giant of Australia's cultural landscape is informed by his reading of Clark's extensive private letters, journals and diaries - many that have never been read before.

'An Eye for Eternity paints a sweeping portrait of the man who gave Australians the signature account of their own history. It tells of his friendships with Patrick White and Sidney Nolan. It details an urgent and dynamic marriage, ripped apart at times by Clark's constant need for extramarital romantic love. A son who wrote letters to his dead parents. A historian who placed narrative ahead of facts. A believer who flirted with Catholicism. A controversial public figure who marked slights and criticisms with deeply held grudges.

To understand Clark's life is to understand twentieth century Australia. And it raises fundamental questions about the craft of biography. When are letters too personal, comments too hurtful and insights too private to publish? Clark incessantly documented his life - leaving notes to the biographers he knew would pursue his story. He had a deep need to be remembered and this book means he will now be understood in an unforgettable way.' (Publisher's blurb)
2011 winner y separately published work icon The Hard Light of Day : An Artist's Story of Friendships in Arrernte Country Rod Moss , St Lucia : University of Queensland Press , 2010 Z1688695 2010 single work autobiography

'Two years after artist Rod Moss arrived in Alice Springs to teach painting, he met an Indigenous 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 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.' (From the publisher's website.)

2009 joint winner y separately published work icon House of Exile : The Life and Times of Heinrich Mann and Nelly Kroeger-Mann Evelyn Juers , Artarmon : Giramondo Publishing , 2008 Z1566741 2008 single work biography 'In 1933 the prominent author and political activist Heinrich Mann and his partner Nelly Kroeger were forced to flee Germany, finding refuge first in France and later, in great despair, in Los Angeles, where Nelly committed suicide in 1944 and Heinrich died in 1950. Their paths were crossed in turn by those of other writers and artists displaced by war or their beliefs, including James Joyce, Franz Kafka, Else Lasker-Schuler, Robert Musil, Joseph Roth and Kurt Schwitters. In Paris, London and Los Angeles, all around the globe, in train compartments, ships cabins, hotels, rented rooms, bombed buildings, and prison cells, they retreated into what they had left - their bodies, their minds and if they were lucky, their books and amidst the debris of an era of self-destruction, they built their own annexes to the House of Exile.' Source: Provided by publisher.
2009 joint winner y separately published work icon Drawing the Global Colour Line : White Men’s Countries and the Question of Racial Equality Henry Reynolds , Marilyn Lake , Carlton : Melbourne University Press , 2008 Z1509124 2008 single work non-fiction (taught in 1 units)

'[This] is a pioneering account of the transnational production of whiteness in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. A work remarkable both for its international breadth and for its sensitivity to local particularity, it is a model for the new global history.

Marilyn Lake and Henry Reynolds expertly and imaginatively reconstruct how leading white intellectuals and politicians in Australia, South Africa, the United States, and Great Britain fought demands for racial equality and jointly invented new doctrines of racial superiority to justify the maintenance and, in some cases, the reinvigoration of white privilege in every part of the world that Britain either controlled or in which it had once deposited its settlers.

A powerful and sobering history, incisively and elegantly told.' Gary Gerstle, author of American Crucible: Race and Nation in the Twentieth Century

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