Anna Funder on her Miles Franklin win and the power of fiction

Anna Funder’s acceptance speech, delivered by video, on winning the Miles Franklin award for All That I Am has received a lot of coverage of varying degrees, thanks in part to her sideswipe at Queensland Premier Campbell Newman’s cancellation of the state’s literary awards. She says,

Prizes like this one are important to writers, but they are not necessary: we would keep writing without them, as writers do in many countries where they are banned. But prizes are very important to the nation. They show that free speech is alive and unbeholden to government, or to media barons. And they provide signposts as to quality when it can be hard, in a bewildering topography of culture—high and low, in print and on-screen and in the fractured online world—to sort the enlightening and soul-feeding from the 50 Shades of momentarily gratifying.

Hear, hear.

You can read the full transcript here.

Meanwhile, Newman continues his bull-in-a-china-shop approach to Queensland’s social fabric, trying it appease the religious fanatics and arch neanderthals typified by Bob Katter’s turn-back-the-clock party while holding some thread of decency. The changes to the same-sex marriage laws and surrogacy laws he’s enacted are ludicrous and insulting and worthy of derison, the semantic game being played highlighting Funder’s point about the importance of literacy in a free-thinking society. A ‘registered relationship’ has overtones of vileness; the ACL need to understand their definition of marriage is neither exclusive nor universal, nor even accurate, nor even logical. A vocal minority should not be dictating government policy that has absolutely no impact on their quality of life. Newman has been praised for standing up to vocal minorities in the past; what a shame he didn’t have the fortitude to do the same here.

Neither logic nor compassion seem to have much of a home in Queensland these days. Maybe those wielding the stupid stick need to read more, and read more widely. As Funder says,

This fusing of mind and soul with strangers is what fiction, the art form that is most personal, most interior permits us. Fiction helps us understand what it might be like to be another. It makes us understand that we are different. And also, that we are the same.

Meanwhile, the non-government supported Queensland Literary Awards have secured some funding from CAL and UQP and will be held on September 5.

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