In front of a packed audience at The Wheeler Centre, the 2016 Hazel Rowley Literary Fellowship winner was announced in Melbourne last night.
Matthew Lamb was awarded the $10,000 Fellowship for his proposed cultural biography of the Australian writer Frank Moorhouse.
Lamb’s biography will include not only a narrative of Frank Moorhouse’s life, but also discuss the development of his writing. Lamb aims to incorporate a cultural history of the times that shaped Moorhouse and that Moorhouse himself helped to shape – including elements such as politics, surveillance, the League of Nations, sexuality and gender.
“Matthew’s robust and erudite approach to biography impressed the judges”, said Fellowship judge Janine Burke. “He has chosen one of the heroes of the Australian literary scene who thoroughly deserves such a precise and timely study.”
“The shortlist was made up of high quality applications” said Arnold Zable, another one of the judges, “so the decision was very difficult. It was heartening to see the innovative and imaginative approaches of the applications, an indication of the evolution of high calibre biographies in Australia.”
Matthew Lamb lives in Tasmania and is the first person from that State to be awarded the Hazel Rowley Literary Fellowship. He is the editor of the Review of Australian Fiction, which he founded in 2012. Since 2013 he has also been the editor of Island magazine. His final issue of Island has just been published, a role he leaves in order to work on the Moorhouse biography, amongst other writing projects.
“I am thrilled that we received such wide-ranging applications from all around Australia. It’s exciting the Fellowship has continued to attract such strong interest and we’re pleased to be able to support the writing community which is so important to our cultural life,” said Della Rowley, Hazel’s sister.
There was fierce competition for this year’s prize. Matthew Lamb’s project was selected from a shortlist that included proposals from new and established writers including Jacqueline Kent, Philip Dwyer, Jeff Sparrow, Eleanor Hogan, Alec O’Halloran, Kitty Hauser, Shannon Burns and Sharon Huebner.
The Fellowship was judged by Janine Burke, Arnold Zable, Della Rowley and Lynn Buchanan, and wasannounced at the ‘The Art of Biography Writing’ event at The Wheeler Centre in Melbourne. The panel discussion, hosted by Burke, featured three of the previous four Hazel Rowley Fellowship winners speaking about the successes and challenges of writing biography and autobiography.
Now in its fifth year, the Hazel Rowley Literary Fellowship was established to encourage Australian authors to attain a high standard of biography writing and to commemorate the life, ideas and writing of Hazel Rowley. In the space of just four books, Rowley established herself as one of the world’s leading literary biographers before dying suddenly in 2011.
About the previous Fellows
In 2015, the Fellowship was awarded to Caroline Baum, who is working on a biography of Lucie Dreyfus (1870-1945).
The 2014 Fellowship went to Maxine Beneba Clarke to re-trace her parents’, grandparents’ and ancestors’ migration journeys for her upcoming autobiography, ‘The Hate Race’, a memoir about growing up black in white middle-class Australia.
Stephany Steggall used the 2013 Hazel Rowley Literary Fellowship to write a biography of Thomas Keneally. Stephany’s book ‘Interestingly Enough…’ was published by Black Inc in September 2015.
In 2012, the inaugural recipient of the Hazel Rowley Literary Fellowship, Mary Hoban, writing about Julia Sorell, used the Fellowship to travel to the Balliol Library in Oxford and the Turnbull Library in Wellington to research early Tasmanian history.
About Hazel Rowley
“My books are about people who had the courage to break out of their confined world and help others to do the same” – Hazel Rowley
Before her untimely death in 2011, Hazel wrote four critically acclaimed biographies: ‘Christina Stead: A Biography’ (1993), ‘Richard Wright: The Life and Times’ (2001), ‘Tête-à-Tête: The Lives and Loves of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre’ (2005) and ‘Franklin and Eleanor: An Extraordinary Marriage’ (2010). Erudite and accessible, these studies brought fresh attention to the lives and works of significant figures both nationally and internationally.
Photo: Judge Janine Burke, previous fellows Caroline Baum, Stephany Steggal and Maxine Beneba Clarke, 2016 fellowship winner Matthew Lamb and just Della Rowley at the announcement event. Photo by Isabel Hight.