The Calibre Prize (first awarded in 2007) is Australia’s leading award for an original essay. The Prize of $5,000 is intended to encourage brilliant new essays and to foster new insights into Australian culture and society. The judges – Morag Fraser and ABR Editor Peter Rose chose Piper’s essay from a large field.
“Christine Piper’s inspired essay complements Calibre’s long record of highlighting essays of real quality and moment,” says ABR Editor, Peter Rose. “Readers will not easily forget this bracing and important essay.”
Piper writes about biological weapons and experiments on living human beings in pre-war and wartime Japan. The remains of just some of the victims (the overall death toll is estimated at 250,000 to 300,000) were discovered in Tokyo twenty-five years ago. They have never been identified.
The story takes Dr Piper to Japan, where she interviews key lawyers and activists who are seeking answers. We also meet the unspeakable Shiro Ishii, dubbed the Josef Mengele of Japan. Ishii, who masterminded Japan’s biological warfare program, escaped prosecution through an immunity deal with the United States. He died at home in 1959.
On learning that she had won the Calibre Prize, Christine Piper commented: “I am honoured to be chosen as the winner, and delighted that my essay will have a wide audience thanks to Australian Book Review and Colin Golvan. I’d like to dedicate the award to the activists who have spent years campaigning and raising awareness about this dark chapter of Japan’s past.”
Christine Piper’s winning essay Unearthing the Past will be published in the April 2014 issue of ABR. The five other shortlisted essays – by Ruth Balint, Martin Edmond, Rebecca Giggs, Ann-Marie Priest and Stephen Wright will be published in coming months.
For more information, visit: www.australianbookreview.com.au for details.
Image: Christine Piper