South African wins top literary prize

2010-06-23 07:57

A South African-born crime writer has won one of Australia’s most

prestigious literary prizes, the Miles Franklin, for a novel set during the

devastating 2009 Black Saturday bushfires.

Peter Temple’s complex crime story Truth beat five other

shortlisted books to take the Aus$42 000 (R277 000) award for a literary work

portraying Australian life.

Temple said: “It’s unusual for a crime writer to receive such a

prestigious award.”

Temple likened the award, first won by Patrick White in 1957 for

his novel Voss, to winning the Nobel Prize: “It’s the Miles Franklin. It stays

with you forever. I feel enormously elated by it.

“One only has to look at the people who have won the Miles

Franklin. In order to join that company, you have to believe that you’ve joined

something quite special. I mean in any other terms it really would be like

winning the Nobel Prize.”

The Miles Franklin, established in 1954 with a bequest from author

Miles Franklin to nurture Australian literature, has previously been awarded to

Tim Winton, Shirley Hazzard and Peter Carey.

Temple said he had almost stopped writing Truth after the Black

Saturday firestorms which killed 173 people and destroyed thousands of homes as

it levelled towns in the southern state of Victoria in February 2009.

“I wasn’t quite sure how to cope with that. I wasn’t sure what kind

of book I would write,” Temple said.

Temple, who in 2007 won the UK Crime Writers Association’s

prestigious Duncan Lawrie Dagger Award, known as the Gold Dagger, has previously

won Australia’s Ned Kelly Award for Crime Fiction five times.

Truth is the sequel to his highly acclaimed The Broken Shore.

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