Acclaimed Tasmanian author Amanda Lohrey has been awarded Australia’s prestigious Miles Franklin Literary Award for her novel The Labyrinth (Text Publishing).
For the second time in the Award’s history, trustee Perpetual announced the winner via live stream, enabling literary enthusiasts across the nation to tune in and celebrate unique Australian literature.
Established through the will of My Brilliant Career author Miles Franklin, for the “advancement, improvement and betterment of Australian literature” – the Miles Franklin Literary Award recognises a novel of “the highest literary merit” that presents “Australian life in any of its phases”.
Eight-time novelist Ms Lohrey has appeared on the Miles Franklin longlist three times and on the shortlist twice, making this a well-deserved win. Ms Lohrey will receive $60,000 in prize money for The Labyrinth. She is the second Tasmanian author to be honoured with the Award in its 64-year history.
“It’s a tremendous honour to be associated with the remarkable Stella Miles Franklin, one of the great Australian mavericks,” said Amanda Lohrey. “Awards like the Miles Franklin are so valuable because in attracting public attention they help Australian literature to flourish, and to compete with imported books.”
“And that’s important because Australian literature is not an add on, a mere diversion, a sideshow to the main game. It sits at the heart of our national culture,” said Ms Lohrey.
Ms Lohrey now joins a group of distinguished and revered alumni of Miles Franklin prize winners, including last year’s winner Tara June Winch (for The Yield), and fellow Tasmanian, the late Christopher Koch (for The Doubleman, in 1985 and Highways to a War, in 1996).
The Labyrinth explores the state of grief in a lyrical and evocative story about loneliness, violence and art. The novel follows Erica Marsden, who retreats to a quiet hamlet near the prison where her son has been incarcerated for homicidal negligence. Living in a rundown shack, she obsesses over creating a labyrinth by the ocean. To build it, Erica will need the help of strangers.
“The Labyrinth is an elegiac novel, soaked in sadness. It is a beautifully written reflection on the conflicts between parents and children, men and women, and the value and purpose of creative work,” said Judge and Mitchell Librarian of the State Library of NSW and Chair, Richard Neville.
Mr Neville was joined on the judging panel by book critic Dr Melinda Harvey, author and literary critic Dr Bernadette Brennan, book critic Dr James Ley and author and activist Sisonke Msimang.
The Labyrinth was selected from a shortlist that included Booker Prize winner Aravind Adiga, emerging talent and fellow Tasmanian Robbie Arnott, expatriate writer Daniel Davis Wood, and first-time novelists Andrew Pippos and Madeleine Watts.
Perpetual, trustee of the Miles Franklin Literary Award, is proud to be steward of Stella Maria Sarah Miles Franklin’s legacy, which has provided more than $1.3 million to Australian authors since its inception in 1957.
Image: Amanda Lohrey – photo by Richard Bugg