The University of Adelaide’s Professor Brian Castro has, on December 5th, won the poetry category of the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards for his book Blindness and Rage: A Phantasmagoria.
Professor Castro, who is Chair of Creative Writing at the University’s Faculty of Arts, is one of only six people awarded prizes in this year’s awards for fiction, non-fiction, young adult literature, children’s literature, poetry and Australian history. Five hundred entries were received of which 30 were shortlisted for this year’s prizes.
The Prime Minister's Literary Awards celebrate outstanding literary talent in Australia and the valuable contribution Australian literature and history makes to the nation's cultural and intellectual life. The judges of the competition are experts from academia, the arts, journalism and the literary world.
“This award means being inspired again,” says Professor Castro.
“A writer’s life is filled with disappointment. One is only as good as the last book, but this win is a game-changer – a new lease of life.
“The award brings me back to the lonely desk, but the room is brighter and lighter,” he says.
In Blindness and Rage Lucien Gracq, who is suffering from a fatal disease, travels to Paris to complete the epic poem he is writing and live out his last days. There he joins a secret writers’ society, Le club des fugitifs, that guarantees to publish the work of its members anonymously, thus relieving them of the burdens of life, and more importantly, the disappointments of authorship.
Written in thirty-four cantos, Blindness and Rage recalls Virgil and Dante in its descent into the underworld of writing, and Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin with its mixture of wonder and melancholy. The short lines bring out the rhythmic qualities of Professor Castro’s prose, enhance his playfulness and love of puns, his use of allusion and metaphor.
“Set in Adelaide, Paris, China and Hong Kong, Blindness and Rage, has been described as lively and exhilarating and, like all of Brian's creative work, is innovative, arcane and allusive,” says Professor Jennie Shaw, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Arts, University of Adelaide.
“This national recognition is the latest in a distinguished and award-winning career that has spanned more than 50 years. We are very lucky to have had so many of our students and staff able to work and study with Brian,” she says.
Professor Castro, who received $80,000 in prize money, was presented with his award by Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Minister for the Arts Mitch Fifield at a ceremony at Parliament House, Canberra.