Bernard Cohen’s witty novel/political satire that gives Aussies a “most elegant kick in the teeth we didn’t know we needed” has won Australia’s inaugural humour writing prize, the State Library of NSW announced tonight.
Sydney writer Bernard Cohen won the $10,000 biennial Russell Prize for Humour Writing for The Antibiography of Robert F. Menzies (HarperCollins Publishers), selected from a diverse field of 57 entries.
The judges – Dr Kathryn Heyman, Paula Tierney and James Tierney – praised the “biting wit” of the novel and its “ambitious themes, ridicule and craft.”
“At times a reader might be encountering a novel, a biography, a political satire or the wittiest PhD exegesis there’s ever been,” the judges reported.
Chair judge Kathryn Heyman observed: “Bursting with many perfectly choreographed moments, the judges felt that Cohen perfectly captured the states of nervy restlessness in the Australian psyche, while possessing the grace of great fiction.”
The novel is set in Canberra where a soon-to-be-elected prime minister invokes the spirit of Sir Robert Menzies. Increasingly discontented with his role as mere nostalgic symbol, Menzies makes a run for it and with much hilarity the Antibiographer seizes the opportunity to document the most significant untold story in Australian political history, and save his career!
See the full media release attached.