Those in the know would perhaps argue with my title, claiming that Australian writing came of age many years ago, with the likes of Peter Carey, Kate Grenville, Tim Winton and Elizabeth Jolley portraying ‘the Australian way’ in no uncertain terms. I must admit though, that for me, Richard Flanagan’s success in winning the 2014 Man Booker Prize with The Narrow Road to the Deep North, caused more than just a little shiver up and down my spine. In a good way.
Flanagan had previously been nominated for literary awards for his first 3 novels: Death of a River Guide (1994), The Sound of One Hand Clapping (1997) and Gould’s Book of Fish (2001), which won him the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize in 2002. However, his most recent success, was not only loosely based on the story of his Fathers’ survival of the Burma Railway, but he is touted extensively as the best Australian Writer of all time.
Now, call me parochial, but he is also the first truly Aussie, Man Booker winner since Peter Carey’s History of the Kelly Gang won the gong in 2001 (forgive me DBC Pierre, but you only lived in Australia til you were two and then ostensibly grew up in Mexico).
And he is is a Baby Boomer!
Why does this inspire me to the nth degree? Well, because we all have a story and for most of Us, that story is the reason why we write. To banish the ghosts of our past. Flanagan went boldly and wrote his story as a Baby Boomer in Australia today AND was acclaimed for it’s strength and honesty. And without he himself being a refugee, migrant or any other cross cultural mix, that has become the fodder for Man Booker winners over the past decades.
Awards are political, I hear you say. It depends who Is sleeping with whom. Yes, yes. Personally though, the reaction to his novel has given me hope that I may still be able to get my story out there for all the world to see. Humble, anonymous, Baby Boomer on the trash heap – ME. And exorcise a few obstinate demons, while I’m at it!