Our most celebrated contemporary novelist and playwright Christos Tsiolkas is on a winning streak with his most recent book, The Slap.
Tsiolkas was one of five writers shortlisted for the 2009 Miles Franklin Literary Award, the most significant prize for fiction in Australia.” It’s amazing, it feels like a new fate that comes from these acknowledgements” he said to Neos Kosmos English Edition (NKEE)
Tsiolkas added, “The best thing about these nomination and awards is the impact it has on family and friends, it’s good for my world but it’s not what it makes you write. I just don’t have to say anymore ‘I am a writer.’”
Last month he took the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for best novel in the Pacific region and as he said to NKEE, if he won the Commonwealth prize he would ask the Queen “to return the Parthenon Marbles back to Greece”.
The book is selling fast due to enthusiastic reviews when it was published last November, strong word of mouth and because as Tsiolkas says, “It is about us, about the new reality, of people of culturally diverse background living in the suburbs.”
The Slap is a thought-provoking account of what happens to a group of friends and family when a misbehaving child is slapped at a suburban barbecue by an adult who is neither his parent, nor a family member.
Tsiolkas faces ferocious competition from three of Australia’s most acclaimed writers of literary fiction with long and successful records of publication and winning literary awards.
The other novels on the list are: Breath by the three-times Miles winner Tim Winton; The Pages by Murray Bail, who won the prize in 1999; Wanting by Richard Flanagan, who has been shortlisted on three previous occasions; and Ice by Louis Nowra.
Tsiolkas acknowledged that like all writers he suffers “insecurities.” The nomination does not change that, but it mean that he no longer has to convince himself he is a writer.
Tsiolkas knows how tough the competition will be, he is also aware of the fact that he is now a mainstream writer, and relays a story when someone in the media asked him “Does that mean you have matured enough to be acknowledged by the establishment?” and Tsiolkas response was “The establishment has matured a little by accepting me, the world is no longer what it was in 1969.”
He spoke of how the children and grandchildren of Jewish, Italian and other immigrants in the United States, like Norman Mailer, Charles Bukowski and Allen Ginsberg influenced him.
“I was of a generation that did not have to look at Australian films or books to be accepted,” he added.
The winner of the prize, which is worth $42,000, will be announced on June 18.