I = Jason Steger: “Michelle de Kretser wins her second Miles Franklin award,” Sydney Morning Herald, 27 August 2018
The first time Michelle de Kretser won the Miles Franklin Literary Award she missed out on much of the excitement and fuss – she was overseas at a writers festival and was woken in the middle of the night to hear the good news. On Sunday, however, she was fully rested and firmly ensconced at the Melbourne Writers Festival, ready to pick up the prize for her most recent novel, The Life to Come.
The Miles, Australia’s most significant literary prize, is worth $60,000 plus a fillip in sales to the winner. The Life to Come was chosen from a shortlist that also included: No More Boats, Felicity Castagna; The Last Garden, Eva Hornung; Storyland, Catherine McKinnon; Border Districts, Gerald Murnane, and Taboo, Kim Scott. De Kretser becomes only the third woman to have won the Miles twice, after Thea Astley (four wins) and Jessica Anderson (twice).
De Kretser used her acceptance speech to castigate “disgraceful” politicians about the treatment of refugees on Nauru and Manus Island. She read aloud a list of names of those asylum seekers who had died there in the past five years, saying “we have not forgotten, we will not forget”.
The Life to Come is a satire that exposes Australians and Australia as seen at home and overseas. De Kretser said it was tough on some aspects of the country and certain kinds of people. “I did hope that a reader’s feelings about Pippa would shift and swing about over the course of the novel. And partly that is in relation to who you’re seeing her with.”
She was particularly pleased that the judges recognised that being funny was not incompatible with being serious. “I think sometimes we tend in fiction to either do comic writing, which is a different thing, or if it’s serious it tends to be quite humourless, earnest in fact. I think my novels have always been ironic, but it was just ramped up here.”
The book was partly about power, about relations on a personal level between the characters and also on a societal level – who has power, how it is wielded, who is powerless. “One of the traditional functions of satire is to take aim at power, to expose it for what it is. I think satirists are idealist or romantics who have been disappointed. And the reason for using satire is because you feel it could be and it should be different.”
And, appropriately for the author of five novels, she said The Life to Come was about creating fiction, about the stories the characters – all vividly drawn – and nations tell or choose not to tell about themselves.
Michelle de Kretser appears next weekend at Melbourne Writers Festival (mwf.com.au). The Age is a festival partner.
II = Item in READINGS, 27 August 2018
Michelle de Kretser has been named the winner of this year’s Miles Franklin Literary Award for her sixth work of fiction, The Life to Come. This is the second time that de Kretser has won this prestigious award.
Set over Sydney, Paris and Sri Lanka, The Life to Come is a dazzling meditation on intimacy, loneliness and our flawed perception of other people. In its pages we meet a cast of flawed, relatable characters: Pippa is a writer who longs for success; Celeste tries to convince herself that her feelings for her married lover are reciprocated; Ash makes strategic use of his childhood in Sri Lanka but blots out the memory of a tragedy from that time.
Richard Neville, Mitchell Librarian of the State Library of NSW and head of the Award judging panel, says: ‘Sentence-by-sentence, it is elegant, full of life and funny. With her characteristic wit and style, Michelle de Kretser dissects the way Australians see ourselves, and reflects on the ways other parts of the world see us’.
Readings bookseller Ellen Cregan says: ‘This novel is acerbically funny, heart-twingeing and incredibly moving, and I enjoyed every page.’ You can read her full review here.
First awarded in 1957, the Miles Franklin Literary Award is presented annually to a novel of the highest literary merit and presents Australian life in any of its phases. As the winner, de Kretser will receive $60,000 in prize money. You can find out more about the award here.
The Life to Come
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