Miles Franklin 2021: shortlist announced for Australia’s most prestigious literary prize

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Two first-time novelists, a previous Man Booker prize-winner and a veteran writer of eight works of fiction are among the six authors shortlisted for the 2021 Miles Franklin award, Australia’s highest literary honour.

Announced at the State Library of NSW on Wednesday night by the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund, the chair of the judging panel, Richard Neville, said there appeared to be common thread of “destructive loss” among the six works shortlisted.

“There is, of course, beauty and joy to be found, and decency and hope, largely through the embrace of community,” he said. “But as the shortlist reminds us, often community is no match for more powerful forces.”

Aravind Adiga, who won the Man Booker prize in 2008 for The White Tiger, is shortlisted for his fifth novel, Amnesty: a tale about a Sri Lankan man living in Sydney whose status as an illegal immigrant risks being exposed after he becomes entangled in a murder investigation.

Tasmanian writer Robbie Arnott has been nominated for his second novel, The Rain Heron, which was described by the competition’s organisers as “equal parts horror and wonder, and utterly gripping”.

UK-based writer Daniel Davis Wood has also been shortlisted for his second novel, At the Edge of the Solid World, in which a grieving Sydney couple is coming to terms with the death of their newborn in the Swiss Alps, as their Australian home town confronts an act of shocking violence that makes international headlines.

Grief and violence are themes also shared in The Labyrinth, Amanda Lohrey’s eighth work of fiction and the second time the 74-year-old has been shortlisted for the Miles Franklin.

Two debut novelists complete the shortlisted nominees; Sydney-based writer Andrew Pippos for Lucky’s, telling the epic tale of a Chicago-born Greek migrant who finds his fortune in Australia during the second world war; and New York-based writer Madeleine Watts, for her coming of age novel The Inland Sea. Watts won the 2015 Griffith Review novella prize for her debut novella, Afraid of Waking It.

Neville’s fellow judges for the Miles Franklin award are book critic Melinda Harvey, author and literary critic Bernadette Brennan, book critic James Ley and author Sisonke Msimang.

Each of the shortlisted authors received $5,000 from the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund; the winner of the $60,000 prize will be announced on 15 July.

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