University of Southern Queensland Australian Short Story Collection - Steele Rudd Award shortlist

letter to pessoa cover

Letter to Pessoa

Michelle Cahill

Giramondo

About the book

Letter to Pessoa is an imaginative tour de force, portraying the experiences of an extraordinary range of characters, including a scientist, a cat and a young Indian female version of Joseph Conrad. Like the poet Fernando Pessoa, who created as many as seventy versions of himself, Cahill displays a remarkable inventiveness, making distant landscapes and situations come alive, as they express the fear and longing, obsession and outrage of the people caught up in them. The collection also includes a number of fictions in letter form, to Jacques Derrida, Virginia Woolf, Jean Genet, Margaret Atwood and J.M. Coetzee.

About the author

Michelle Cahill is the author of four collections of poetry, including The Accidental Cage and Vishvarupa. She is editor of Mascara and was co-editor of Contemporary Asian Australian Poets. Her story ‘Duende’, published in Letter to Pessoa, won the 2014 Hilary Mantel International Short Story Award. Letter to Pessoa, her first story collection, received the 2017 NSW Premier’s Literary Award for New Writing.

Judges' Comments

Engaging, innovative, robust and thoughtful. This collection benefits from a reader who is well-versed in the works of the authors referenced. The inter-textuality may mean that some readers find it hard to access the underbelly of the stories. On a sentence level the book sings, the images are vivid and, when the reader brings knowledge of the books and writers referenced with them to the reading of the book, there is a connection that makes the work sharper. Cahill’s playful experimenting is enjoyable. It is great to see a writer encouraging an active reading of their text and working within a clear knowledge of literary traditions.

Read more

The Circle and the Equator cover

The Circle and the Equator

Kyra Giorgi

UWA Publishing

About the book

In the dying days of the Russian Empire, a Scottish sound recordist disappears into the Caucasus mountains; a former hero of the Algerian resistance experiments with traditional Chinese medicine; a French anatomical artist models disfigured soldiers returned from the Crimea… Confronting and moving, Giorgi’s stories delve into the lives of those caught at the articulation points of history. Deftly balancing the personal and the political with the historical and the medical, they explore the impact of conflict, the ethics of treatment and care, and the lengths to which we will go to preserve who we are.

About the author

Kyra Giorgi is a Sydney-based writer and researcher. The Circle and the Equator is her first book of fiction.

Judges' Comments

Each of these stories take us to a new part of the world in a very specific time but the variations in settings and periods are achieved without a sense of forced internationality or exoticisation. The attention to detail means that each story-world feels incredibly concrete and immediate. The stories are elegantly restrained and emotionally engaging with subtly connecting themes and motifs: war, maiming/the body as a site of emergency and anxiety. The protagonists have their own unique voices and yet there is a clear, unifying authorial voice making the collection feels like a whole rather than a group of disconnected ideas. Each story takes the reader to a place that is surprising and fresh.

Read more

After the Carnage cover

After the Carnage

Tara June Winch

UQP

About the book

Ten years after the much-acclaimed Swallow the Air, Tara June Winch returns with an extraordinary new collection of stories. Ranging from New York to Istanbul, from Pakistan to Australia, these unforgettable stories chart the distances in their characters’ lives – whether they have grown apart from the ones they love, been displaced from their homeland, or are struggling to reconcile their dreams with reality. A collection of prodigious depth and variety, After the Carnage marks the impressive evolution of one of our finest young writers.

About the author

Tara June Winch has written essay, short fiction and memoir for various Australian publications. Her first novel, Swallow the Air, won the David Unaipon Award and a Victorian Premier’s Literary Award. It has been on the HSC syllabus since 2009 and in the same year she was awarded the International Rolex Mentor and Protégé Award.

Judges' Comments

A collection of stories from different places around the world united by the theme of outsider stories. There are surprising and enriching connections between the experiences of the various characters and stories. Each character is facing their own struggles, but the circumstances of each are different due to culture and geographic location.

Read more