2022 - Winner
This is a lyrical, quietly compelling exploration of the tensions between interiority and conformity through the Japanese concept of achiragawa, or ‘the other side’. Katherine Brabon’s novel of a young Australian woman researching this concept in Japan elegantly frames three narratives of ordinary Japanese people who are pulled, as she is, towards this surreal, dreamlike space that manifests as a rejection of contemporary societal or familial pressures and relationships.
A young man becomes a hikikomori — a recluse — who has not left his bedroom or communicated with anyone for 10 years. His mother hires a former school friend as his ‘rental sister’ to hopefully draw him out. This friend, recently married, finds herself instead drawn to question her own growing sense of invisibility and isolation. The Shut Ins offers a vivid virtuosity and subtle realism to interrogate substrata of youthful alienation as a form of freedom and agency. An unsettling, mesmerising work.