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2021 - Shortlisted


A biography written to pay homage to an unknowable man, this account takes us from country Victoria to Poland, Germany and Israel, retracing the author’s steps as he attempts to compensate for what he feels are his failings towards his friend. Miller’s subject, Max Blatt, a Polish Jew and union organiser opposed to Hitler’s National Socialism, was imprisoned and tortured before escaping after World War II to China and finally Australia.

In circling back to the same images and reflections — fireside talks with Max at his Araluen farm, the shattered nature of his friend’s life, his habitual silence — Miller produces a work as much about himself as about Max. This accumulated jigsaw of fragmented pieces, arranged by date of acquisition rather than according to the chronology of Blatt’s life, gradually emerges as a meditation on biography and a discourse on the elusiveness of reaching definitive truths about any individual existence. The book is a testament to friendship — or perhaps to love — as much as a formal biography. The writing is contemplative, moving and engaged, and of the standard one would expect of a writer of Miller’s stature. 


About the author

photo of alex miller

Alex Miller

Alex Miller is the award-winning author of twelve novels and a collection of essays and stories. His work is published internationally and widely in translation. Miller is twice winner of the Miles Franklin Literary Award, in 1993 for The Ancestor Game and in 2003 for Journey to the Stone Country. He is an overall winner of the Commonwealth Writers' Prize in 1993 for The Ancestor GameConditions of Faith and Lovesong are both winners of the Christina Stead Prize for Fiction in the NSW Premier's Literary Awards. In 2012, Autumn Laing received the Melbourne Prize for Literature for an outstanding contribution to Australian cultural life. Coal Creek won the Victorian Premier's Literary Award in 2014. Alex's twelfth novel, The Passage of Love, published in 2017, is his most autobiographical work, a deeply moving masterpiece of the writer's early struggles and loves from the vantage of old age.