When she won the Stella Prize on Tuesday, Charlotte Wood had a fantastic and poetic speech prepared on the role books play in our lives.
Wood, a Sydney-based novelist, took out the $50,000 prize for Australian womens' literature for her fifth novel The Natural Way of Things.
The novel explores a dystopian world where women are send to a hard labour camp in the middle of nowhere after being involved in affairs with high-profile men.
In a ceremony at the Sydney Opera House, Wood admitted she became bogged down at times when writing her award-winning book, and at one point wanted to abandon the project all together.
However, she was reassured by telling herself that writing helps to "honour the luck and the intricate detail of being alive."
"It often feels to me that we have entered a new dark age – an age in which science is rejected in favour of greed and superstition, in which our planet is in desperate need of rescue; an age in which bigotry and religion are inseparable, and presidential candidates promise to punish women for controlling their own bodies," Wood said.
"I feel that in the midst of this gloom we need art more than ever. Art is a candle flame in the darkness: it urges us to imagine and inhabit lives other than our own, to be more thoughtful, to feel more deeply, to challenge what we think we already know.
"Art declares that we contain multitudes, that more than one thing can be true at once."
The writer, who is currently studying for her PhD, thanked the judges for the honour of being awarded the prize, and recognised the role the books of her fellow finalists play in society.
"To create art is itself an act of enlargement, of enrichment and affirmation," Wood said.
"To write well is to light that candle in the darkness, offering solace, illumination – and maybe even the possibility of transformation – not just for the writer but for the reader, and for our society itself.
"Thank you so much for this honour."
This story was originally published in April 2016.
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