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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.