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Australia Six authors make Miles Franklin shortlist

11:51  16 june  2021
11:51  16 june  2021 Source:   aap.com.au

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The six shortlisted authors for this year's Miles Franklin Literary Award: (from left, back row) Michael Mohammed Ahmad, Gail Jones, Melissa Lucashenko, Rodney Hall; (front) Jennifer Mills, Gregory Day. Credit:Wolter Peeters. Hall has won the Miles on two previous occasions – for Just Bernadette Brennan, author most recently of A Writing Life: Helen Garner and Her Work and one of the Miles Franklin judges, said the shortlist offered a diverse range of voices and experiences: "Each writer has been unafraid to take risks in their narrative, in one or more of structure, subject matter or style."

‘As the shortlist reminds us, often community is no match for more powerful forces,’ says judging panel chair Richard Neville. Photograph: Copyright Agency. UK-based writer Daniel Davis Wood has also been shortlisted for his second novel, At the Edge of the Solid World, in which a grieving Sydney couple is coming to terms with the death of their newborn in the Swiss Alps, as their Australian home town confronts Neville’s fellow judges for the Miles Franklin award are book critic Melinda Harvey, author and literary critic Bernadette Brennan, book critic James Ley and author Sisonke Msimang.

The six authors shortlisted for Australia's richest literary prize each investigate "destructive loss" in their novels.

Loss is the common thread in the six novels nominated for the Miles Franklin Literary Award. © Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS Loss is the common thread in the six novels nominated for the Miles Franklin Literary Award.

The nominees for the $60,000 Miles Franklin Literary Award were announced on Wednesday night and included a mix of new and established authors.

Chair of the judging panel, State Library of NSW Mitchell Librarian Richard Neville, says loss is the common thread in the nominated novels.

"There is, of course, beauty and joy to be found, and decency and hope, largely through the embrace of community but, as the shortlist reminds us, often community is no match for more powerful forces," he said.

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The 2020 Miles Franklin shortlist features six novels exploring trauma, resilience, lost or vanished family members and the uncertain status of the dead. The 2020 Miles Franklin shortlist seems to bear this out in six novels whose topics shimmer with relevance: the continuing wounds of colonisation (for people and the environment); language and all its possibilities and failures; ditto families; and the issues that are intrinsic to fiction, like conflict and character, trauma and resilience, sex and art.

The six authors shortlisted for the ,000 prize were announced on Tuesday. They include Miles Franklin veterans Rodney Hall, Gail Jones and previous longlistee Melissa Lucashenko, alongside Gregory Day, Michael Mohammed Ahmad and Jennifer Mills. Judge Bernadette Brennan said this year’s authors were “unafraid to take risks” in their narratives, which addressed “complex, disparate and urgent aspects of contemporary Australian life”. First awarded in 1957, the Miles Franklin is given to a novel judged of highest literary merit that presents an aspect of Australian life.

First-time novelist Madeleine Watts made the shortlist for The Inland Sea, a book about an emergency dispatch operator coming of age in a dying world.

Daniel Davis Wood is nominated for At the Edge of the Solid World, a novel about a man who becomes fixated on a violent high-profile case while grieving the death of his firstborn child.

Amanda Lohrey is nominated for her novel The Labyrinth, a story that follows a woman who obsesses over creating a labyrinth into the ocean after she retreats to a hamlet near the jail where her son is imprisoned.

Creative writing teacher Andrew Pippos was delighted to be shortlisted for his debut novel Lucky's, a multi-generational saga about a clarinet-playing Greek immigrant who sets up a franchise of diners in 1950s Australia.

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The six shortlisted authors for this year’s Miles Franklin , from left to right: Michael Mohammed Ahmad, Gail Jones, Gregory Day, Melissa Lucashenko, Rodney Hall and Jennifer Mills. Courtesy of the Miles Franklin / Belinda Rolland. This makes it sound grim, but in fact it is often a very funny novel. The narrator, Bani Adam, is a misfit at school and outside, and his performances and protestations of himself as intellectual, sophisticated, open-minded yet still devout, make for humour, albeit of a poignant, plaintive kind.

The Miles Franklin Award is Australia's most prestigious literary prize — and at ,000, one of the richest purses. But in 2019, its 62nd year, the shortlist has some notable "outsider" voices — with three first-time nominees, including Michael Mohammed Ahmad (with his loosely autobiographical novel The Lebs). It was established in the will of author Stella Maria Sarah Miles Franklin ( author of My Brilliant Career). It distinguishes a novel "of the highest literary merit" which presents "Australian life in any of its phases". Past winners include Patrick White, Ruth Park, Thea Astley, Tim Winton, Peter

"(Lucky's) starts with an interest in a certain milieu that has disappeared from Australian life and that is the Greek Australian cafe and milk bar which is this kind of lost world that I wanted to recover in this novel and dramatise," Pippos told AAP.

"That is a setting that I knew very well as a child."

In a year when publishing deadlines were delayed and social distancing concerns forced book launches online, Pippos said 2020 was a "rollercoaster" of a year to be a debutant novelist but the nomination was both an honour and a surprise.

"I spent eight years writing this book and I didn't know if it would even be published let alone be shortlisted for the Miles Franklin," he said.

"I remember reading Peter Carey's (Miles Franklin-winning) first novel when I was 17 and that was my first real introduction to Australian literature."

Man Booker Prize winner Aravind Adiga is nominated for his novel Amnesty, which centres on an illegal immigrant in Sydney.

Tasmanian author Robbie Arnott is nominated for The Rain Heron, which follows a woman surviving on the remote frontier of a country devastated by a coup.

Each of the shortlisted authors will receive $5000 from the Copyright Agency's Cultural Fund.

The winner will be announced on July 15.

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