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coetzee’s coup

In Literature on May 25, 2010 at 7:49 pm

The winners of the 2010 NSW Premier’s Literary Award were announced at a dinner at the Art Gallery of NSW last Monday.

I was most excited to hear that J.M. Coetzee won the $40,000 Christina Stead Prize for Fiction for his memoir/novel Summertime, and Cate Kennedy won, most deservedly I think, the People’s Choice Award for The World Beneath.

Coetzee was overseas and unable to collect his award in person. I could not help but reflect on Alex Miller’s comments last month about authors not bothering to turn up to awards ceremonies. Lamenting the decline of the Miles Franklin Award, Miller said, “If you get the Pulitzer, you go and pick it up. if you win the Booker, you go and pick it up”. The NSWPLA, not so, it seems.

The full list of winners:

Christina Stead Prize for Fiction
J.M. Coetzee, Summertime

Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-Fiction
Paul McGeough, Kill Khalid: Mossad’s failed hit … and the rise of Hamas

Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry
Jordie Albiston, the sonnet according to ‘m’

Ethel Turner Prize for Young People’s Literature
Pamela Rushby, When the Hipchicks Went to War

Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children’s Literature
Allan Baillie, Krakatoa Lighthouse

Script Writing Award
Shared by Jane Campion, Bright Star and Aviva Ziegler, Fairweather Man

Play Award
Not awarded in 2010

NSW Premier’s Prize for Literary Scholarship
Philip Mead, Networked Language: Culture and History in Australian Poetry

Community Relations Commission Award
Abbas El-Zein, Leave to Remain: A Memoir

UTS Glenda Adams Award for New Writing for Fiction
Andrew Croome, Document Z

The People’s Choice Award
Cate Kennedy, The World Beneath

Book of the Year ($10,000)
Paul McGeough, Kill Khalid: Mossad’s failed hit … and the rise of Hamas

Special Award
The Macquarie Pen Anthology of Australian Literature

On Coetzee’s Summertime, the judges’ said:

Summertime follows a young English biographer who embarks on a series of interviews with people who were important to the dead writer called ‘John Coetzee’, focusing on the years 1972-1977 when Coetzee, in his thirties, was living with his widowed father in Cape Town. From the testimony of these significant people, including past mistresses, a favourite cousin, and a Brazilian dancer whose daughter studied English with him, comes a portrait of a detached, self-analysing man who felt his displacement in and from South Africa with a fierce and unrequited passion to find a true patrimony.

Built on several levels – the biographer’s interviews, the notebook accounts, and the late author’s comments on his own notations – Summertime is also a contemplation on the nature of fiction, and on the reliability of evidential history. Cunning in its assurance, Summertime is an act of self-dissection enlightened by cool humour. Clever, at times playful, and always unafraid, J.M. Coetzee relies on prose itself to engage the reader in a progressively moving account of the human dilemma.

J.M. Coetzee’s work includes Waiting for the Barbarians, Life & Times of Michael K, Boyhood, Youth, Disgrace and Diary of a Bad Year. He was the first author to win the Booker Prize twice and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2003.

The judging panel is pleased to announce that J.M. Coetzee’s Summertime is the winner of the Christina Stead Prize for fiction.


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