Posted by: Lisa Hill | July 24, 2011

Sensational Snippets: Traitor (2009), by Stephen Daisley

Traitor, by Stephen Daisley, is the winner of the 2011 Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Fiction.  It was also the winner of the 2011 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards UTS Glenda Adams Award for New Writing, and was  shortlisted for the 2011 Commonwealth Writers Prize, Best First Book, South East Asia and Pacific.

In this Sensational Snippet, David, a stretcher-bearer on the Western Front, is tending to the mortally wounded:

Young sir, David would say gently, because he knew that they had become used to being called sir, look at me.  Look at me son.  I am here.  Look into my eyes.  The head would often shake, side to side.  A refusal of what had happened.  It wasn’t supposed to be like …

Yes. You have been shot but … no it is.  Sir here.  Here is my finger.  Hold my finger.  And look into my eyes.  Hold my finger, squeeze.  Yes, you are bleeding.  Oh yes it is.  Look at me.  Squeeze.

The young man had gripped his finger with a fierceness and absolute trust that only the newborn display.

It was something Mahmoud had taught him.  This comfort.  Our first touch often is to grip the finger of our mothers.  The first noise we hear is sssh.  As if to comfort us after being rudely expelled into the world.  Slapped into life. 

David would whisper bless you as the grip slackened and their head arched back in death.  Please, he would say, don’t.  Don’t go. Not yet.  But, of course, they most often did.

(Traitor, by Stephen Daisley, Text Publishing, 2010, p 224)

I know it’s naïve, but I can’t help wishing that this kind of comfort could be offered to every dying soldier, and in the wake of the tragedy in Oslo, for every victim of a violent death.

Check out the award ceremony video, and buy a copy at Text Publishing.


  1. I agree with your sentiments Lisa.
    ‘But, of course, they most often did.’ So simple and powerful. So true.


    • Daisley is master of these punchy little asides…


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