Posted by: Lisa Hill | April 19, 2011

Miles Franklin shortlist 2011

The 2011 Miles Franklin shortlist has been announced!

The shortlisted titles are

Congratulations to the authors and their publishers!
That Deadman Dance Bereft When Colts Ran


  • The bookcovers above link to Fishpond (Australia and New Zealand);

PS (I can’t resist this).

  • Apropos recent comments here on ANZLL from aggrieved editors taking me to task for my thoughts about sloppy editing, the MF judges apparently said  (via a tweet from Jennifer Byrne at First Tuesday Book Club) that ’they had read lots of books that were not ready for publication and lacked great editing…’
  • and furthermore, she also reported that the judges said ‘Australian voice’ was the most striking feature of the books nominated.  That’s what the terms of Miles Franklin’s Will stipulates, but some of the Twitterati aren’t happy about it.  Go find another award, I say!


  1. Only three this year. That’s an interesting comment in itself, eh? And apparently the finalists will all get some money just for being finalists. That’s nice to hear.


    • Yes, re the money for the shortlisted authors …I think someone (the Feds??) have provided some top-up money to allow this to happen.
      And it probably explains why they limited it to just three.


  2. Delighted to see this very short shortlist, so thanks for posting it Lisa!

    I’ve been looking forward to reading all three of these, must get cracking before the winner’s announced.


    • I’ll look forward to your reviews:)


  3. How interesting to think about what an Australian “voice” wold sound like – other than descriptive passages of landscape. Surely this is something linked to geography rather than “something in the blood”? If an Australian was to write about another country, would the Australian voice survive? Just pondering


    • Hi Tom
      It’s actually a very versatile requirement, that the work be about ‘Australian life in all its phases’. Miles Franklin, a woman of very limited means, was an author who passionately wanted to promote Australian writing. In her time, the cultural cringe meant that overseas products in the arts (music, drama, literature, film) dominated, and Australians rarely saw themselves and the lives they led portrayed in the arts. Our bestsellers were British, the BBC was the cultural icon and people flocked to see overseas artistes in the opera and drama.
      The Australian voice is not about geography, though April is NOT the cruellest month here, and we never see a ‘host of golden daffodils’ or feel that it’s ok for a ‘corner of a foreign field to be forever Australian’ – though these were all poems that formed the basis of the literary canon here for many, many years including my time at school. It’s about an Australian way of looking at the world, from an island continent that has never been invaded, from a formerly Anglo-Irish settlement that is now successfully multicultural, from cities that cluster along the eastern coastline while the interior remains sparsely populated. It’s about the endless battle with a hostile environment and climate, and the vast distance from almost everywhere else in the world. It’s about the extraordinary beauty of our country, and the exciting dynamism of our modern cities. These features of life here shape us and the way we view the world, and these aspects of our lives deserve to be celebrated in our literature.
      So even though we are among the most travelled people in the world, and expats zip off and do all sorts of exciting things elsewhere, and yes, it’s a global world and our writers can and should write about all kinds of things, the Miles Franklin Award is for that distinctive Australian voice writing about our distinctive Australian sensibility.
      And I get very cross with people who think they can interfere with the terms of Miles Franklin’s Will. We are desperate to get more philanthropists endowing awards for the arts, because literature needs such awards in order to support our finest writers in the tiny Australian market battling for its share of attention in a global market. No philanthropist will ever do that if they think that the conditions they place on their bequests can be set aside by other people who think they know better than the person who’s bequeathing the money!


  4. Only three, eh. I thought I’d get in early and have read ‘Rocks in the Belly’ and am currently reading ‘Time’s Long Ruin’ unnecessarily! (lol). Even the long-list was rather short this time, I thought.
    Having now read Jill Roe’s biography ‘Stella Miles Franklin’, I too feel more protective of the prize and its conditions. Franklin squirrelled away that prize money for years, and “Australian life in all its phases” was important to her. I’m pleased that the conditions of the prize honour and respect her sacrifice.


    • yay, you and me together against the forces of darkness, Janine! I’m just about to start Time’s Long Ruin, do you like it?


  5. I like your explanation about ‘Australian life in all its phases’ and am always pleased to see you championing Miles Franklin’s cause!

    I’ve seen the Twitter debate and everyone bemoaning that there’s only three titles on it. But if there were only 6 on the longlist, what did they expect? Also, I quite like smaller lists — makes it easier to read all the books before the actual prize is announced. ;-)


    • Obviously some people have forgotten that in some years no prize was awarded at all. Some years are, for some inexplicable reason, better than others…


  6. 1. I thought we Canadians had a lot of book prizes, but compared to you Aussies we don’t even break into a sweat.
    2. Having said that, your eloquent (and precise) summation of the rationale for the Miles Franklin is a powerful argument, which I am inclined to support completely.
    3. I think a three-book shortlist is excellent. So good that I might be inclined to try all three. With five or six books, I’d say let’s wait for the winner (since previous Miles Franklin winners have rated very well with me).


    • Ah, Kevin, there may be a few other Oz book prizes here and there but this is the one that matters. The newly-minted Prime Minister’s offers more money, but the MF has enduring prestige. The criteria (apart from the ‘Australian life in all its phases requirement’) is that the book have the highest literary merit, and while there will always be arguments about what that means, every author wants to win a literary prize with that criteria.


  7. Alas, it seems the copies that were sent to the UK (I would guess five) have sold and none are available. I am going to try an Australian source — maybe we have colonies have advance to the point that we can circumvent the Mother Country.


  8. I was surprised to see just the three announced, I hadn’t realised the longlist was 6. Good to hear though that they all get something for being nominated. I think that’s quite sensible.


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