Thursday, June 18, 2009

Winton wins Miles Franklin

For the fourth time. Australia’s leading literary award went to Tim Winton, whose surfing novel Breath manages the rare feat of being both exciting and contemplative.

In recent days it had been suggested that Christos Tsiolkas had overtaken Winton as the favorite after his novel The Slap won the Commonwealth Prize. In the end, as rarely occurs with literary prizes, the better novel won.

In an interview, Winton described Breath as being about people who have “no moral compass about the consequences of living.”

“We live this bizarre abstract life,” he went on to say. “We think someone can come in with therapy or analgesia, that can relieve us of the consequences, and it’s about not taking the flesh seriously, as though there’s no discomfort in corporeal existence, as though someone—your mum, the state or your lawyer—will fix you up.”

Winton also took home the award in 1984 for Shallows, 1992 for Cloudstreet, and 2002 for Dirt Music. The last two are his best-known books, but as I said in my review of it, Breath is a good introduction to his body of work. Perhaps now Winton win begin to receive the attention he deserves from American critics and readers.

Update: Stephen Romei has invited an “in-depth discussion of Winton’s work. Tell me if you love him, and why,” he blegs his readers. “Tell me if you think he’s overrated, and why. Tell me which of his novels are your favourites.” Romei prefers the earlier novels.