Australian Embassy

2010 Australian Writers Week - Author Profiles

2010 Australian Writers’ Week


Participating writers

Linda Jaivin is the internationally bestselling author of eight books. These include the comic-erotic cult classic Eat Me and The Infernal Optimist, shortlisted for the Australian Literature Society Gold Medal in 2007. Her latest novel, A Most Immoral Woman, is based on an incident in the life of the Australian China correspondent George Morrison and set against the backdrop of the Russo-Japanese War of 1904.

Linda's non-fiction writing on China includes the acclaimed The Monkey and the Dragon, an intimate portrait of the 80s in China and Taiwan-China relations as reflected in the life of the singer-songwriter, defector, dissident and fengshui master Hou Dejian. She is also a literary translator (from Chinese) whose work includes numerous oral histories by Sang Ye as well as the subtitles for Farewell My Concubine and Hero among other films.

Jaivin is currently working on the libretto for an original opera in Chinese and English, a hybrid of Peking and Western opera forms called Pan Jinlian to be performed as a co-production with the China National Peking Opera Company, to premiere in 2010 as part of the Year of Australia China cultural program.
Jaivin is currently visiting fellow in the Pacific and Asian History Division, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies at the Australian National University. She lives in Sydney.

[On Eat Me: ‘Jaivin never loses sight of her self-declared goal, which is to wrench the writing of erotica from its male practitioners, dress it up with style and sly humour and restore it to women.’ —Jonathan Kirsch, LA Times

On The Monkey and the Dragon: ‘[this] can only enhance her reputation as a writer of the salacious and the serious…She writes from the heart but also with the fluency and keen observations of a professional journalist.’ —Canberra Times]

Robert Dessaix is a writer, interviewer, translator and broadcaster, whose artistic work concentrates on themes of belief, sexuality, language and travel. After studying in Moscow in the 70s and teaching Russian language and literature at the Australian National University and University of NSW, he presented the weekly Books and Writing program on ABC's Radio National for ten years. Popular for his wit, charm and knowledge as a presenter, in more recent years he has presented various radio series on language, public intellectuals and great travellers in history.

Robert’s best-known books, published around the world, are the autobiography A Mother's Disgrace, the novels Night Letters and Corfu, a collection of essays and short stories, (and so forth), and the travel memoir Twilight of Love. His books have earned him many Australian book prizes, notably the 1997 Australian Literature Society Gold Medal for Night Letters. His most recent books are Arabesques and On Humbug. He has also published translations of works by Chekhov, Dostoyevsky and Turgenev.

[1997 Australian Literature Society Gold Medal

On Arabesques: ‘Arabesques is by turns anecdotal, profound, moving, challenging, funny, intellectually probing, informative – as readers have come to expect from this accomplished translator, broadcaster, essayist and novelist.’ —Gia Metherell, The Canberra Times

On Corfu: ‘Robert Dessaix is some kind of national treasure because he represents with a kind of Helpmann-like elegance and virtuosity the side of our sensibilities we publicly repress.’
—Australian Book Review]

Les Murray lives in Bunyah, New South Wales. He has published some thirty books and is widely considered a leading poet of his generation and one of Australia’s best. His work is studied in schools and universities throughout Australia and has been translated into several foreign languages. In 1996 he was awarded the TS Eliot Prize for poetry, in 1998 the Queen's Gold Medal for poetry – on the recommendation of Ted Hughes – and in 2004 the Italian Premio Mondello. His most recent collections of work include The Biplane Houses, Fredy Neptune, Selected Poems, Collected Poems and Killing the Black Dog.

Described as Australia’s ‘bush-bard’, Murray’s work is often humorous, yet grapples with politics, dispossession, war and peace, and depression. He has also worked as a translator, literary critic and poetry editor and has edited several poetry anthologies.

[‘He is, quite simply, the one by whom language lives.’ —Joseph Brodsky

‘There is no poetry in the English language now so rooted in its sacredness, so broad-leafed in its pleasures and yet so intimate and conversational. —Derek Walcott

On Fredy Neptune: ‘A haunting, loving, fiercely democratic epic by a master poet.’
—Ruth Padel, The New York Times]

Alice Pung was born in Melbourne to Chinese Cambodian parents. Her memoir, Unpolished Gem is a national bestseller and won the Australian Book Industry Newcomer Award 2007 and was shortlisted for numerous other prizes including the Victorian and NSW premiers’ awards.

A lawyer by trade, she contributes regularly to publications such as Meanjin, the Age and the Monthly and is the editor of the popular anthology, Growing Up Asian in Australia. Pung has recently completed the International Writers Program at the University of Iowa and will publish her next book in 2010, which was conceived while on a writer’s residency at the University of Peking in 2008.

[Unpolished Gem was voted one of Victoria’s top 5 summer reads in the State Library of Victoria's Summer Read program

On Unpolished Gem: ‘Pung has a seductive way with language, an eye for telling detail and a gift for comic dialogue’ —Peter Rose, Australian Book Review

On Growing Up Asian in Australia: ‘The themes are rich, the writing sharp, the humour crisp and the reflections deeply moving.’ —Waleed Aly, Sunday Age]

Alexis Wright is a member of the Waanyi nation of the southern highlands of the Gulf of Carpentaria. Her books include Grog War, a study of alcohol abuse in the outback town of Tennant Creek, and the novel Plains of Promise, which was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Prize, the Age Book of the Year Award and the NSW Premier’s Award for Fiction, and translated into French as Les Plaines de l’espoir. Her most recent novel, Carpentaria, won the prestigious Miles Franklin award in 2007, and is a surreal and bombastic epic, a blend of myth and scripture, farce and politics, teeming with larger than life characters. Carpentaria is set in the Gulf country of north-western Queensland, from where her people come.

[Carpentaria prize pool: Miles Franklin Literary Award 2007; Australian Literature Society Gold Medal, Victorian Premier’s Award for Fiction; Queensland Premier’s Award for Fiction; ABIA Literary Fiction Book of the Year Award

On Carpentaria: ‘Alexis Wright is a word carver. Her words get under our skin, seep through our veins.’ —Asia Pacific Writer's Journal

‘Carpentaria is a swelling, heaving, tsunami of a novel: stinging, sinuous, salted with outrageous humour, sweetened by spiralling lyricism and swaggering with the confident promise of a tale dominated by risk, roguery and revelation.’ —The Australian]

Graham Freudenberg has had a long career as a journalist, author and one of Australia’s most distinguished political speech writers. Starting his career as a cadet journalist, Freudenberg became involved in politics in the 1960s as a press secretary and then developed the speech writing role for which he is known. He served Australian prime ministers Gough Whitlam and Bob Hawke, and New South Wales premiers Neville Wran, Barrie Unsworth and Bob Carr. He also accompanied prime minister Gough Whitlam on a trip to China in 1971 at the time of Nixon's visit. He has since turned his hand to writing books, including A Figure of Speech – A Political Memoir, a biography of Gough Whitlam A Certain Grandeur, and Churchill and Australia, winner of the 2009 Walkley Non-Fiction Book Award.
[It is a rare writer who can inject the proper level of politics into an account of geo-politics. Graham Freudenberg’s life experience as a journalist and political insider means he can perform the trick. —Graeme Dobell, Lowy Institute]

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