christos-cwpIn honour of the recent awards won by two authors I admire very much, I thought we could revisit my interviews with them. First of all, which awards were these?

Christos Tsiolkas won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book, awarded at the Auckland Writers’ and Readers’ Festival last week, for The Slap. See the full details here. I have high hopes that The Slap will also win the Miles Franklin, to be announced in June. And Nam Le has finally scooped an award in Australia (having already won the prestigious Dylan Thomas Prize), receiving the NSW Premier’s Literary Award for Book of the Year, and the UTS Glenda Adams Award for new writing, for The Boat. See all the NSW Premier’s Literary Award winners here.

Nam was the first ever victim of my ‘responsive’ interview format. And he absolutely nailed it. Looking back on this now, it’s both articulate and possessing a certain rawness, which is the point of the format. Ideas and thoughts flow freely. Nam said:

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nam_leApparently, 700,000 people pass through Grand Central Station in New York every day.  I once saw sped-up footage from a camera situated above the main concourse; what was most remarkable was that all these people – many moving at a fast Manhattan clip – fell into an eerie, communal rhythm wherein they barely touched each other.  Almost the whole floor was filled with people, yet there was an elegant, evolved choreography at work that, in keeping people from each other, I found a thing of great beauty and sadness.

Revisit the full piece.

The Slap is one of the best Australian books I’ve read. Ever. The beginning of my interview with Christos has a lengthy spiel/review – basically explaining the way the book affected me. I’m still kicking myself that I hadn’t yet read it (or anything of his) when I met him and sat at the dinner table with him and the Overland crew. Though I believe he is going to Ubud this year (as I am). When the email came in with his wonderfully generous answers, I knew I had something special: the kind of interview that might be cut or censored in other media. Christos said:

I think that people, in the main, are terrified of conflict and that ignorance seems preferable in that sense because getting to truth is often not safe. I talked above about trusting the reader and I know that as a reader I am elated when I feel that trust has been reciprocated by a writer. Illumination is what I think good and/or honest and/or beautiful and/or savage art can offer.

When someone says of a book or a film or a play that it was ‘too hard’ I think they have been made conflicted, uncomfortable. That discomfort is sometimes what is most precious to me about great art.

Enjoy the whole piece here.

Coming soon: Emerging Writers’ Festival reports, a large round-up post, May haiku comp, interviews with Sarah Manguso and Tom Cho, and plenty more reviews…

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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