2014 Miles Franklin Shortlist Announced

Author

The Miles Franklin Literary Award shortlist for 2014 reveals a mix of well-established and debut authors.

The shortlist, announced on 15 May, features some familiar faces with previous Miles Franklin winner Tim Winton nominated for Eyrie and Alexis Wright for The Swan Book. Also on the list are Richard Flanagan for The Narrow Road To The Deep North, Fiona McFarlane for The Night Guest, Cory Taylor for My Beautiful Enemy and Evie Wyld for All The Birds, Singing.

Cory Taylor said she was “thrilled” by the “unexpected” nomination, while first-time author Fiona McFarlane said she was “floored” by it.

“It feels quite surreal. It is one of those prizes that I have grown up knowing about. And now to actually be on it – it feels lovely to be here,” McFarlane said.

The award, which was established by Miles Franklin’s estate, is given each year to a novel presenting Australian life in any of its phases. It was first awarded to author Patrick White for his novel Voss in 1957. He was paid £500 at the time and declared “I’m going to buy a hi-fi set and a kitchen stove.”

Now, 57 years later, the winner receives $50,000. Additionally, the authors on the shortlist receive $5,000 each from the award’s long-term partner Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund.

MacFarlane, Taylor and Wright all agreed that as they already had a hi-fi set and a stove, their prize money would be used as a means to keep writing.

“It’s like a lovely cushion,” said Taylor. “It’s $5,000 that we don’t have to find from somewhere else.”

While Copyright was not top of mind on the day, both McFarlane and Taylor were in no doubt that Australia’s copyright laws supported their creative endeavours.

Taylor said, “Copyright is like air. We need it to live.”
Fiona McFarlane told the gathering: “I am very pro-copyright. I know that when I was going through graduate school in Creative Writing there were issues about putting all of the university libraries online, so that anything that any student had ever submitted had a master copy, so a PhD would become digitised. It was an enormous issue for creative writing students because my novel was my thesis. That stuff is so sticky, it is so difficult and we will have to continue to negotiate that in the time to come. But thank goodness that there were copyright laws that we could turn to and say ‘wait, you can’t do this’.”

MILES FRANKLIN SHORTLIST – NOVEL SYNOPSES

Richard Flanagan – The Narrow Road To The Deep North

August, 1943. In the despair of a Japanese POW camp on the Thai-Burma death railway, Australian surgeon Dorrigo Evans is haunted by his love affair with his uncle’s young wife two years earlier. Struggling to save the men under his command from starvation, cholera, and beatings, he receives a letter that will change his life forever. Click here to read more.

Fiona McFarlane – The Night Guest

One morning Ruth wakes thinking a tiger has been in her seaside house. Later that day a formidable woman called Frida arrives, looking as if she’s blown in from the sea. In fact she’s come to care for Ruth. Frida and the tiger: both are here to stay, and neither is what they seem. Click here to read more.

Cory Taylor – My Beautiful Enemy

Arthur Wheeler is haunted by his infatuation with a Japanese youth he encountered in the enemy alien camp where he worked as a guard during WW2. Abandoning his wife and baby son, Arthur sets out on a doomed mission to rescue his lover from forced deportation back to Japan, a country in ruins.

Tim Winton – Eyrie

Tom Keely’s reputation is in ruins. And that’s the upside. Divorced and unemployed, he’s lost faith in everything precious to him. Holed up in a grim highrise, cultivating his newfound isolation, Keely looks down at a society from which he’s retired hurt and angry. He’s done fighting the good fight, and well past caring.

Alexis Wright – The Swan Book

The Swan Book is set in the future, around the time of Australia’s third centenary. It follows the life of a mute young woman called Oblivia, to her marriage to Warren Finch, the first Aboriginal president of Australia, and her elevation to the position of First Lady, confined to a tower in a flooded and lawless southern city.

Evie Wyld – All The Birds, Singing

Who or what is watching Jake Whyte from the woods? Jake Whyte is the sole resident of an old farmhouse on an unnamed island, a place of ceaseless rains and battering winds. It’s just her, her untamed companion, Dog, and a flock of sheep. Which is how she wanted it to be. But something is coming for the sheep.

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