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Alexis Wright and Sanya Rushdi shortlisted for The Stella Prize

Two Giramondo authors are shortlisted for the 2024 Stella Prize: Alexis Wright for her epic novel Praiseworthy, and Sanya Rushdi for her autofictional work, Hospital. The announcement was made on 4 April on ABC Radio National.

Six books are shortlisted for the $60,000 prize for Australian women’s writing, which is awarded annually ‘to one outstanding book deemed to be original, excellent, and engaging’.

‘A canon-crushing Australian novel for the ages’, Wright’s Praiseworthy has won the Queensland Literary Award for Fiction, and is currently shortlisted for the Dublin Literary Award and The James Tait Black Prize. Rushdi’s Hospital, translated from Bengali by Arunava Sinha and described by the judges as ‘deeply experiential’, is the author’s debut book.

Judges’ comments, Praiseworthy:

Fierce and gloriously funny, Praiseworthy is a genre-defiant epic of climate catastrophe proportions. Part manifesto, part indictment, Alexis Wright’s real-life frustration at the indignities of the Anthropocene stalk the pages of this, her fourth novel.

That frustration is embodied by a methane-like haze over the once-tidy town of Praiseworthy. The haze catalyses the quest of protagonist Cause Man Steel. His search for a platinum donkey, muse for a donkey-transport business, is part of a farcical get-rich-quick scheme to capitalise on the new era of heat. Cause seeks deliverance for himself and his people to the blue-sky country of economic freedom.

Praiseworthy walks the same Country as companion novel, Carpentaria, published in 2006, and here, Wright demonstrates further mastery of form. Reflecting the landscape of the Queensland Gulf Country where the tale unfolds, Wright’s voice is operatic in intensity. Wright’s use of language and imagery is poetic and expansive, creating an immersive blak multiverse. Readers will be buoyed by Praiseworthy’s aesthetic and technical quality; and winded by the tempestuous pace of Wright’s political satire.

Praiseworthy belies its elegy-like form to stand firm in the author’s Waanyi worldview and remind us that this is not the end times for that or any Country. Instead it asks, which way my people? Which way humanity?

Judges’ comments, Hospital:

Hospital is an unflinching, insightful and delicately wrought work of autofiction that brings devastating lucidity to the often-opaque realm of mental health. Drawn from Rushdi’s own experience with psychosis, it is a novel that bucks the classic tropes and cliches, eschewing sensationalism and sentimentality in favour of an invitation to meaningful engagement and understanding. Through her spare, honest words, deftly translated from the Bengali by Arunava Singha, Rushdi’s ordeal becomes our own. We descend into psychosis with the narrator, acutely feel her disconnections and institutional indignities. We come to question notions of “illness” and “treatment”. There are no jump scares, just the ineluctable clarity that demands we remain in the moment with something we find deeply uncomfortable.

The winner of the 2024 Stella Prize will be announced on 2 May.