This week Anna Funder's All That I Am -- which opens with the unforgettable "When Hitler came to power I was in the bath" -- nabbed the Miles Franklin Literary Award.
Funder was the first winner since the administrators of the award decided to loosen the criteria over the definition of Australian life, after criticism that winners are often those with classic "Australiana" settings and themes. As Liticism blogger Bethanie Blanchard explains:
"Though there was little surprise in the decision -- All That I Am was the bookies' favourite to win, and has been a bestseller since it was published late last year -- the Trust Company's decision this year to 'modernise' the Miles Franklin criteria of 'presenting Australian Life in any of its phases' beyond geographical boundaries to encompass 'mindset, language, history and values' was seen to advantage Funder's work -- set as it is, overwhelmingly, in Europe."
Would Funder have won if the award wasn't modernised? Possibly not. But we think literature that examines the Australian "mindset, language, history and values" is far more exciting than writing restricted by geographical boundaries.
As Blanchard writes: "This is too unique a prize to fade, as Alex Miller warned, into irrelevance."
From Crikey Weekender. Crikey is an electronic news and commentary service to which The Bookman subscribes. For free trial membership for 21 days go here.