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Prime Minister’s Literary Awards Winners, 2018, announced

December 5, 2018

The Winners of the the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards for 2018 were announced this morning at Parliament House … an event I followed via their Twitter Live Feed … and it contained the BEST of ALL POSSIBLE news that Gerald Murnane won the Fiction prize. I haven’t read the novel, so perhaps my approval is cheeky, but Murnane has been far too under-rated over the years and it’s high time he was recognised for his contribution to Australian letters! Sure, he can be obscure, but that makes him interesting – even fun – to read because of the mesmerising way he interrogates our emotional interiors/landscapes in some sort of alignment with a physical interior/landscape, that feels Australian but is also mythical in its lack of specificity.

Below is the shortlist, with the winner marked in bold.

Gerald Murnane, Border districtsFiction

  • A long way from home, Peter Carey (Penguin Random House): on my TBR (Lisa’s review)
  • Border districts, Gerald Murnane (Giramondo): on my TBR (Lisa’s review)
  • First person, Richard Flanagan (Penguin Random House): my review
  • Taboo, Kim Scott (Pan Macmillan): on my TBR (Lisa’s review)
  • The life to come, Michelle de Kretser (Allen & Unwin): my review (and winner of this year’s Miles Franklin Award)

The pre-announcement Twitter feed said “beautifully told stories capturing a broad range of themes”. That tells us a lot doesn’t it!


  • Archipelago, Adam Aitken (Vagabond Press)
  • Blindness and rage: A phantasmagoria, Brian Castro (Giramondo Publishing) (Lisa’s review)
  • Chatelaine, Bonny Cassidy (Giramondo Publishing)
  • Domestic interior, Fiona Wright (Giramondo Publishing)
  • Transparencies, Stephen Edgar (Black Pepper)

This time the twitter feed said that “this year’s shortlistees prove that poetry is very much alive and a vibrant art form in Australia”. Hmm … any different from last year’s I wonder?

The winner is another grand man of Australian letters whom I must get onto my blog soon – he’s one of my gaps.


  • Asia’s reckoning, Richard McGregor (Penguin Random House UK)
  • Mischka’s war: A European odyssey of the 1940s, Sheila Fitzpatrick (University of Melbourne Publishing)
  • No front line: Australia’s special forces at war in Afghanistan, Chris Masters (Allen & Unwin)
  • The library: A catalogue of wonders, Stuart Kells (Text Publishing)
  • Unbreakable, Jelena Dokic and Jessica Halloran (Penguin Random House): my report of an In Conversation event

And the pre-announcement twitter feed said, “The shortlisted books reflect our place in history and the modern world.” Hmm … again. I think I’ll forget the Twitter feeds.

Australian history

  • Beautiful Balts: From Displaced Persons to New Australians, Jayne Persian (NewSouth Publishing)
  • Hidden in plain view: The Aboriginal people of coastal Sydney, Paul Irish (NewSouth Publishing)
  • Indigenous and other Australians since 1901, Timothy Rowse (NewSouth Publishing)
  • John Curtin’s war: The coming of war in the Pacific, and reinventing Australia, Volume 1, John Edwards (Penguin Random House)
  • The enigmatic Mr Deakin, Judith Brett (Text Publishing)

Children’s literature

  • Feathers, by Phil Cummings and Phil Lesnie (Scholastic Australia)
  • Figgy takes the city, Tamsin Janu (Scholastic Australia)
  • Hark, it’s me, Ruby Lee!, Lisa Shanahan and Binny Talib (Hachette Australia)
  • Pea pod lullaby, Glenda Millard and Stephen Michael King (Allen & Unwin)
  • Storm whale, Sarah Brennan and Jane Tanner (Allen & Unwin)

Young Adult literature

  • Living on Hope Street, Demet Divaroren (Allen & Unwin)
  • My lovely Frankie, Judith Clarke (Allen & Unwin)
  • Ruben, Bruce Whatley (Scholastic Australia)
  • The ones that disappeared, Zana Fraillon (Hachette Australia)
  • This is my song, Richard Yaxley (Scholastic Australia)

Thoughts, anyone?

8 Comments leave one →
  1. December 5, 2018 12:15

    Gerald Murnane! Who’d have thought the PM had it in him. Pity about Taboo, but it was a strong year.

    • December 5, 2018 12:16

      Haha, Bill. I suspect the PM didn’t read the books, but, you know, I could be surprised. It was a strong year I agree.

  2. rachelhennessy permalink
    December 5, 2018 14:56

    No surprise that a Scott Morrison selection would be almost exclusively male … Though I don’t begrudge Gerald or Brian, both deserve any accolade they get.

    • December 5, 2018 19:34

      Thanks Rachel. Nice to hear from you. Yes, it was a very male awards list, I noticed. It would be interesting to know how much, if any, of these Scott Morrison has actually read though. And, like you, I don’t begrudge those too – in fact, I often look to this prize to not follow all the others. (Only trouble is that the reason for that has, at times, been problematical.)

  3. December 5, 2018 19:00

    I was, of course, delighted, and surprised too, that I’d actually read the poetry winner, because it’s really a novel in verse.
    No, I don’t imagine the PM reading anything from the shortlist. I suspect that the rugby equivalent of The Footy Record would be more to his reading taste.

    • December 5, 2018 19:35

      Thanks Lisa. No. I don’t either – re ScoMo I mean.

      I didn’t realise Castro’s was a verse novel. I’ll get your link.

  4. December 8, 2018 07:34

    These are all new to me, so I can’t really comment on the list, but I just wanted to say that you made me laugh with your commentary on the anodyne Twitter feed descriptions 🙂

    • December 8, 2018 08:01

      Ha ha, thanks Andrew. You have to do something, sometimes, to make these sorts of list posts interesting – but they were the wrong sort of interesting!

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