Shortlist announced – 2012 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards

by |August 9, 2012

Premier and Minister for the Arts Ted Baillieu today announced the 21 works that are in the running for the most valuable literary prize in Australia – The Victorian Prize for Literature.

“Now in their 27th year, the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards proudly recognise and promote the exceptional work of Australian authors, playwrights and poets. They are a celebration of writing and of reading, both of which play a vital role in the life of this State,” Mr Baillieu said.

The winner of each of the award categories receives $25,000 and goes into the running to win the Victorian Prize for Literature, which carries an additional $100,000 in prize money, making it the richest in the country.

“This year’s shortlist features works by authors at all stages of their careers, covering subjects as diverse as Australian pioneering history and Indian philosophy, political intrigue, youth homelessness, immigration, cookery and the world of country show-jumping.”

Mr Baillieu said readers everywhere now have the chance to have their say, by voting for their favourite work to win the 2012 People’s Choice Award.

The winners will be announced at the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards ceremony on Tuesday 16 October 2012.

For further information on the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards and to vote for the People’s Choice Award, please visit


 Award for Fiction:

· All That I Am by Anna Funder (Penguin Books) – USA

Ruth Becker, defiant and cantankerous, is living out her days in the eastern suburbs of Sydney. She has made an uneasy peace with the ghosts of her past – and a part of history that has been all but forgotten.

Another lifetime away, it’s 1939 and the world is going to war. Ernst Toller, self-doubting revolutionary and poet, sits in a New York hotel room settling up the account of his life.

When Toller’s story arrives on Ruth’s doorstep their shared past slips under her defences, and she’s right back among them – those friends who predicted the brutality of the Nazis and gave everything they had to stop them. Those who were tested – and in some cases found wanting – in the face of hatred, of art, of love, and of history. Click here to read more…

Anna answered the Ten Terrifying Questions – read her answers here
Click here to order your copy of All That I Am

· The Cook by Wayne Macauley (Text Publishing) – Brunswick, VIC

Power through service, says Head Chef. It’s one of the first lessons taught at Cook School, where troubled youths learn to be master chefs by bowing to decadence and whim, by offering up a part of themselves on every plate.

It’s a motto Zac takes to heart. A teenage boy with a difficult past, he throws himself into the world and work of haute cuisine. He has dreams of a future, of escaping the dead-end, no-hope lot of his fellow cooks. He wants to be the greatest chef the world has seen.

He thinks he’s taken his first steps when he becomes House Cook for a wealthy family. Never mind that the family may seem less than appreciative. Or refined. Or deserving. Power through service.

But as the facade crumbles and his promised future looks unlikely to eventuate, Zac the Cook is forced to reassess everything. Sweet turns sour and ends in bitter revenge.

Blackly funny and deliciously satirical, The Cook feeds our hunger to know what goes on in the kitchen, while skewering our culture of food worship. Click here to read more…

Click here to order your copy of The Cook

· Foal’s Bread by Gillian Mears (Allen & Unwin) – Sydney, NSW

The sound of horses’ hooves turns hollow on the farms west of Wirri. If a man can still ride, if he hasn’t totally lost the use of his legs, if he hasn’t died to the part of his heart that understands such things, then he should go for a gallop. At the very least he should stand at the road by the river imagining that he’s pushing a horse up the steep hill that leads to the house on the farm once known as One Tree.

Set in hardscrabble farming country and around the country show high-jumping circuit that prevailed in rural New South Wales prior to the Second World War, Foal’s Bread tells the story of two generations of the Nancarrow family and their fortunes as dictated by the vicissitudes of the land. Click here to read more…

Gillian answered the Ten Terrifying Questions – read her answers here
Click here to order your copy of Foal’s Bread

· Cold Light by Frank Moorhouse (Random House Australia) – Sydney, NSW

It is 1950, the League of Nations has collapsed and the newly formed United Nations has rejected all those who worked and fought for the League. Edith Campbell Berry, who joined the League in Geneva before the war, is out of a job, her vision shattered. With her sexually unconventional, husband, Ambrose, she comes back to Australia to live in Canberra.

Edith now has ambitions to become Australia’s first female ambassador, but while she waits for a Call from On High, she finds herself caught up in the planning of the national capital and the dream that it should be ‘a city like no other’.

When her communist brother, Frederick, turns up out of the blue after many years of absence, she becomes concerned that he may jeopardise her chances of becoming a diplomat. It is not a safe time to be a communist in Australia or to be related to one, but she refuses to be cowed by the anti-communist sentiment sweeping the country. Click here to read more…

Frank answered the Ten Terrifying Questions – read his answers here
Click here to order your copy of Cold Light

· A History of Books by Gerald Murnane (Giramondo) – Goroke, VIC

This new work by Gerald Murnane is a fictionalised autobiography told in thirty sections, each of which begins with the memory of a book that has left an image on the writer’s mind. The titles aren’t given but the reader follows the clues, recalling in the process a parade of authors, the great, the popular, and the now-forgotten. The images themselves, with their scenes of marital discord, violence and madness, or their illuminated landscapes that point to the consolations of a world beyond fiction, give new intensity to Murnane’s habitual concern with the anxieties and aspirations of the writing life, in the absence of religious belief. A History of Books is accompanied by three shorter pieces of fiction which play on these themes, featuring the writer at different ages, as a young boy, a teacher, and an old recluse. Click here to read more…

Click here to order your copy of A History of Books

· Mateship with Birds by Carrie Tiffany (Pan Macmillan Australia) – Mitcham, VIC

On the outskirts of an Australian country town in the 1950s, a lonely farmer trains his binoculars on a family of kookaburras that roost in a tree near his house. Harry observes the kookaburras through a year of feast, famine, birth, death, war, romance and song. As Harry watches the birds, his next door neighbour has her own set of binoculars trained on him. Ardent, hard-working Betty has escaped to the country with her two fatherless children. Betty is pleased that her son, Michael, wants to spend time with the gentle farmer next door. But when Harry decides to teach Michael about the opposite sex, perilous boundaries are crossed.

Mateship with Birds is a novel about young lust and mature love. It is a hymn to the rhythm of country life – to vicious birds, virginal cows, adored dogs and ill-used sheep. On one small farm in a vast, ancient landscape, a collection of misfits question the nature of what a family can be. Click here to read more…

Carrie answered the Ten Terrifying Questions – read her answers here
Click here to order your copy of Mateship with Birds

 Award for Non-Fiction:

· 1835: The Founding of Melbourne and the Conquest of Australia by James Boyce (Black Inc.) – Hobart, TAS

· The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia by Bill Gammage

(Allen & Unwin) – Turner, ACT

· Adelaide by Kerryn Goldsworthy (NewSouth Books) – Queenstown, SA

· The Hall of Uselessness: Collected Essays by Simon Leys (Black Inc.) – Garran, ACT

· True North by Brenda Niall (Text Publishing) – Camberwell, VIC

· Her Father’s Daughter by Alice Pung (Black Inc.) – Parkville, VIC

Award for Drama:

· National Interest by Aidan Fennessy (Melbourne Theatre Company and Black Swan State Theatre Company) – Brunswick, VIC

· A Golem Story by Lally Katz (Malthouse Theatre) – Carlton, VIC

· Boxman by Daniel Keene (If Theatre, Big West Festival) – Spotswood, VIC

 Award for Poetry:

· Vishvarupa by Michelle Cahill (Five Islands Press) – Wahroonga, NSW

· Armour by John Kinsella (Pan Macmillan Australia) – York, WA

· Southern Barbarians by John Mateer (Giramondo) – Karrinyup, WA

 Award for Writing for Young Adults:

· The Shadow Girl by John Larkin (Random House Australia) – Carlingford, NSW

· The Shiny Guys by Doug MacLeod (Penguin Books) – St Kilda, VIC

· All I Ever Wanted by Vikki Wakefield (Text Publishing) – Gulfview Heights, SA

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