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The Antibiography of Robert F. Menzies

2015 - Winner


Bernard Cohen’s The Antibiography of Robert F. Menzies is a novel in the most elegant state of disassembly. At times a reader might be encountering a novel, a biography, a political satire or the wittiest PhD exegesis there’s ever been. Two of its characters are described at a certain point as ‘Smiling like two schoolboys not busted for anything.’ and the biting wit of this novel busts Australia big time. It busts us as a people so concerned with telling each other how relaxed we are (‘Smile, love – it might never happen!’), that we are revealed as at heart anxious. Anxious that we, at the end of the globe, are always the last to know. Cohen captures big-scale anxiety and small acts of nervy restlessness, indicative of our larger domestic history and the way it is forever unsettled with its own self-described ‘eventlessness’. Bursting out with many perfectly choreographed elements, The Antibiography of Robert F Menzies is the most elegant kick in the teeth we didn’t know we needed. It is that rare thing indeed: a sharp political satire shot through with true and startling originality.