Christos Tsiolkas is clearly one of Australia’s most important contemporary writers.
His latest book The Slap won the 2009 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize in the South East Asia and the Pacific category last week.
When Neos Kosmos English Edition (NKEE) contacted Tsiolkas in his Preston home, he was clearly excited with the news, “If I win the main prize, I said to mum and dad, I will be demanding the Parthenon Marbles back from the Queen.”
The Slap is about the events that evolve after a man slaps a child who is not his own at a suburban BBQ in Melbourne’s northern suburbs. This action has a shocking effect on a group of friends. The characters in The Slap it is said, are all someone we all know, or a mirror to contemporary suburban and multicultural Australia.
As Tsiolkas says to NKEE: “The Slap begins at a suburban BBQ, the host is Greek and his partner is Indian; that is our reality.”
He points to the changing class and cultural dynamics of our suburbs.
“The most interesting things are really happening here in the northern suburbs, that is where class is changing. Elite and official Australia is more behind the times than suburbia,” he adds.
“The suburban Coburg that I grew up in has changed so much. The nature of class is changing in these suburbs, as is the nature of Greek community changing dramatically.”
When talking about The Slap, Tsiolkas underscores “The fact that the most interesting thing about contemporary Australia happen in the suburbs and it has it taken us so long to recognise that these Australians are us says something about how insular official Australia is.”
Tsiolkas’ first book, Loaded, a drug fuelled odyssey of growing up gay and Greek in the suburbs was made into a film Head On. His last book Dead Europe , a disturbing contemplation on racism in a contemporary Europe also won literary awards.
The Slap is now in the running for the overall Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. It is published by Allen and Unwin and can be found in all good bookstores and from www.allenandunwin.com