Merlinda Bobis in Australia wins Christina Stead prize for her 'cli-fi' novel "LOCUST GIRL"
''Locust Girl'' by Merlinda Bobis in Australia wins Christina Stead prize for her 'cli-fi' novelBooks Sydney Writers Festival
Photo: Evana Ho
But the winner, Merlinda Bobis, and her novel Locust Girl: A Lovesong, has had less attention until now than James Bradley's cli-fi novel Clade and Mireille Juchau's cli-fi novel The World Without Us, which both used the disappearance of the honeybee as a central symbol.
Philippines-born Bobis, who lives in Canberra, came to Australia as a student 25 years ago, taught creative writing at Wollongong University for 20 years, and is the author of novels, stories, poetry and radio dramas in English, Filipino and her native language, Bikol.
Locust Girl grew out of her concern for the people and nature in both her countries, which has led her to work with the International Water Project, leading a community in the Philippines to tell stories about the dying river that supplies their water.
Thinking about climate change, poverty, terrorism, globalisation, she says, "I wondered how I could write about all this and make a big issue come alive in a small story, so that even a child could understand."
She decided in 2004 to write about a child's hardship and dislocation, in a nameless country.
"One can think of dryness in the post-apocalyptic setting as the dryness of the human heart consumed by us versus the other," she says.
As the judges say: "Bobis' story sounds loudly not only in today's Australia, but also throughout an environmentally and politically disrupted world where repression and violence are rife, and where huge numbers of the otherwise lost leave their homes to undertake dangerous journeys in the search for life.
"There were many fine and stylistically accomplished works among this year's entries, but the distinctiveness, sweep and visual power of this short novel set it apart."
Bobis says her books begin as dreams, or nightmares, and they consume her psychologically and physically.
"This began in Australia in the 1990s," she says. "I came as a student on a scholarship to do a doctorate, and I would wake up screaming. [I dreamt] there was always a man in the house.
"When I went to the Philippines to research my second novel about child prostitution, I had a bad back. My physiotherapist asked me,'Do you debrief? You need it.'"
As the best-known Australian writer from the Philippines, she says, "One of the greatest things about coming here is that you hear so many other voices and world views, so your own world view becomes layered. I'm very grateful for this."
Even now, after her fourth novel, Bobis says, "I'm used to rejections, so this win is very helpful."
Locust Girl is published by Spinifex, a small independent feminist press in Melbourne that celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.
2016 NSW PREMIER'S LITERARY AWARD WINNERS
Book of the Year ($10,000)
Dark Emu Bruce Pascoe (Magabala Books)
Christina Stead Prize for Fiction ($40,000)
Locust Girl: A Lovesong Merlinda Bobis (Spinifex Press)
UTS Glenda Adams Award for New Writing ($5,000 – sponsored by UTS)
An Astronaut's Life Sonja Dechian (Text Publishing)
Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-fiction ($40,000)
Reckoning: A Memoir Magda Szubanski (Text Publishing)
Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry ($30,000)
brush Joanne Burns (Giramondo)
Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children's Literature ($30,000)
Teacup Rebecca Young & Matt Ottley (Scholastic Australia)
Ethel Turner Prize for Young People's Literature ($30,000)
Laurinda Alice Pung (Black Inc.)
Nick Enright Prize for Playwriting ($30,000)
The Bleeding Tree Angus Cerini (Griffin Theatre Sydney)
Betty Roland Prize for Scriptwriting ($30,000)
Deadline Gallipoli, Episode 4: "The Letter" Cate Shortland (Matchbox Pictures)
Multicultural NSW Award ($20,000)
Good Muslim Boy Osamah Sami (Hardie Grant Books)
Indigenous Writers Prize ($30,000)
Dark Emu Bruce Pascoe (Magabala Books)
Heat and Light Ellen van Neerven (University of Queensland Press)
Dr Rosie Scott AM, for her contribution to literature and social causes as a writer, mentor and activist.
People's Choice Award
The Life of Houses Lisa Gorton (Giramondo)
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/books/locust-girl-by-merlinda-bobis-wins-christina-stead-prize-for-fiction-20160516-gowcra.html#ixzz49LrJiow9
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