Alex Miller has won the Miles Franklin Literary Award on two occasions, the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the 2010 Prime Minister's prize for his novel Lovesong, which was also named Age Book of the Year the same year. Photo: Edwina Hollick
ALEX Miller reckons writing serious fiction is a dangerous occupation. He says it is an act of imaginative truth that "requires the writer to confront unclear aspects of the self; to delve, in other words, into the unconscious and awaken repressed emotions and memories". As a novelist, he has been leading a dangerous life for many years.
But it's not all danger.
Last night was a time for celebration as he won the $60,000 Melbourne Prize for Literature. It's the third time the triennial prize has been presented and the third time Miller has been shortlisted.
Unlike other Australian literary prizes, the Melbourne Prize considers a Victorian writer's entire output — much like the Nobel Prize — and it is not limited to fiction. The other writers on the shortlist were children's writer Alison Lester, political and social commentator Robert Manne, playwright Joanna Murray-Smith and crime writer Peter Temple. The previous winners were Helen Garner and Gerald Murnane.
The Melbourne Prize also presents a best-writing award worth $30,000 for a single work, which went to Craig Sherborne for The Amateur Science of Love. He also wins a residency at the University of Melbourne.
Miller is regarded as one of Australia's best writers and has won the Miles Franklin Literary Award on two occasions, the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the 2010 Prime Minister's prize for his novel Lovesong, which was also named Age Book of the Year the same year. His first novel, Watching the Climbers, was published 1988 (and re-published a few months ago); his 10th, Autumn Laing, came out to enthusiastic reviews last year.
Sherborne has published two collections of poetry and two acclaimed memoirs, Hoi Polloi and Muck, but The Amateur Science of Love, about a tortuous relationship between a man and woman 10 years older and its devastating consequences, is his first novel. The Age review described it as "an engulfing, heart-stopping book — a performance that dazzles the eyes and leaves the reader gasping for air".
The judges for both prizes were academic and writer Brian Matthews, Readings director Mark Rubbo, playwright Hannie Rayson, novelist Christos Tsiolkas and Wheeler Centre director Michael Williams.