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Gerald Murnane, Alexis Wright and Michael Farrell are shortlisted for the 2019 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards

We are delighted to announce that three Giramondo titles have been shortlisted in the 2019 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards. They are Gerald Murnane’s Border Districts for the Christina Stead Prize for Fiction, Alexis Wright’s Tracker for the Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-Fiction, and Michael Farrell’s I Love Poetry for the Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry. Please see below for the judges’ comments.

Any discussion of Border Districts, like much of Gerald Murnane’s work before it, is inevitably wrapped up in the known interests of the author. The unnamed narrator in the novel tasks himself to report on a liminal space, one that gains significance in a less geographical sense than that land made by thoughts appended to paper. The recurrence of colour, horseracing, religion and education are like so many corks on a tide, retreating and returning by the inescapable gravity of the author’s career-long interest. Such is the beautifully circular logic of Murnane’s rhythmic syntax that the reader is happy to be caught in its current, and measures time according to its slower pulse.

Murnane’s fastidiousness, his determination to integrate both his past and the purpose of writing, make him one of the most significant authors this country has produced. If, as Murnane has said, Border Districts is indeed his last work of fiction it is a fitting full stop to a particular view made large by the scrupulousness of the author’s astonishing talent.

A symphonic chorus of biography, Tracker presents the larger than life figure of Aboriginal leader and thinker Tracker Tilmouth, a charismatic figure who died in Darwin in 2015. Strategist, entrepreneur, political activist, Tilmouth imagined a bright future for Indigenous Australians and dedicated his life to initiatives that would secure their destiny in their culture. In a monumental work of collective storytelling, that builds in power like a musical fugue, Alexis Wright weaves together interviews with the many people who knew Tracker as family, friends and colleagues, to create a thrillingly complex, multi-faceted portrait.

Epic and ambitious, Tracker challenges traditional Western approaches to biography with its non-linear, often digressing multi-voiced collection of anecdotes and yarns, presented as if heard around an endless campfire. What emerges is a deep, richly layered, often surprising sense of a unique individual, passionately engaged in shaping the opportunities for his people to thrive and take pride in their culture.

Michael Farrell’s latest book is a list and commentary on iconic Australian characters aligned with a number of famous international artists, poets, actors and a ubiquitous Pope. Unpredictable scenes unfold under Farrell’s laconic gaze and voice, sharks, Uluru, the Magic Pudding and an emu in police uniform facing hippogriffs, impalas, androids and Rome. The constant juxtapositions are both disconcerting and highly amusing.

The effect of this poet’s seemingly random associations goes beyond the intentional meaninglessness of surrealism, as an individual point of view emerges despite the deliberate avoidance of traditional grammatical connections. With characteristic flair and impressive risks with language, these poems are startling in their evocations of history and place, and the results are often equally dark and hilarious. I Love Poetry is a celebration of the senses and imagination.