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2018 - Shortlisted
Many of us have found beauty and truth in Tim Winton’s fiction. In The Boy Behind the Curtain we find these same qualities in autobiography, expressed in that recognisably stable and unselfconscious voice. Winton charts the experiences and contexts that have shaped him, forever probing how family, community and the wider world impinged. Many readers will identify their own worlds, too, from the rhythms of the land to the rambunctiousness of contemporary politics, and appreciate Winton’s endeavour to make sense of the underpinnings we share. Rarely is personal and social insight integrated so well or rendered with such literary quality.
In a series of remembered moments, Winton guides us through his process of self-composition, riffing on the sometimes-difficult symbiosis of community and individual, never straying far from the gentle joke. This book at times makes us audibly laugh and cry but also makes us ponder silently. It demonstrates the profundity and ease of the best autobiography. This is the portrait of an artist who sees vividly how our weaknesses undo us, but who resists oversimplification, anger and despair, always on the lookout for a common humanity.