Goroke author Gerald Murnane shortlisted for Miles Franklin Literary Award for latest novel, Border Districts

It might come as a surprise to some that one of Australia’s greatest writers lives in little old Goroke, just over the Victorian border.

Gerald Murnane has won numerous awards over his four decades-long career, and has now been nominated for a Miles Franklin Literary Award for his latest work, Border Districts.

He has written a total of 11 fiction works since his debut novel Tamarisk Row in 1974, along with a collection of essays called Invisible Yet Enduring Lilacs.

The Melbourne-born author moved to the Wimmera town of Goroke in 2009.

Gerald’s most recent work, Border Districts, has been shortlisted for the prestigious Miles Franklin Literary Award. He said the recognition was a change of pace from what he was used to.

“Being a finalist for the Miles Franklin (award) is very much a novelty to me because none of my books previously have made it to the long-list, so of course I am pleased,” he said.

‘It seems to be as a signal that they want me in the mainstream; they want me to come in from the cold.

“Winning the Miles Franklin (award) would probably be a little too late to do anything practical for me because I’m not writing fiction at the moment, and may not write anymore.

“It would give me the sort of quiet satisfaction that senior people get from achievements.”

Border Districts follows a man who – similar to Gerald – moves from Melbourne to a small town on the Wimmera Plains where he intends to spend the last years of his life. Mediating on fragments of the narrator’s past, the novel explores the border land between life and death.

Gerald Murnane with his latest novel, Border Districts. Picture: TIMOTHY HILLIER (Courtesy of Perpetual, Copyright Agency)

Gerald Murnane with his latest novel, Border Districts. Picture: TIMOTHY HILLIER (Courtesy of Perpetual, Copyright Agency)

Gerald said the idea for the novel started with a dream.

“I dreamed one night about coloured glass and I took to thinking of the meaning the coloured glass had to me at different times in my life,” he said.

“So I set out to write about a book with coloured glass in mind and Border Districts was the result.

“Coloured glass reminds me of the glass marbles I used as a child to play imaginative games with. The glass marbles were very important in my first work of fiction Tamarisk Row.

“Glass marbles remind me of church windows and religion was an important part of my life as a child.

“Coloured glass reminds me of the windows in houses of a certain vintage, it also reminds me of things I can’t describe in words and that was the driving force behind my novel.”

He said he was surprised by the popularity of his novels among the younger generation.

“My writing barely deserves to be called fiction, and certainly not mainstream fiction,” he said.

“To my great surprise the majority of my readers today seem to be young people, some of them not even born when my first book of fiction Tamarisk Row was published.

“This, frankly, baffles me to think that people of a different generation than mine get something from my books.”

The Miles Franklin Literary Award will be announced in August. The winner will receive $60,000 from the Trustee of the award, Perpetual. The Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund is a proud supporter of the award. 

This story Goroke author Gerald Murnane recognised first appeared on The Wimmera Mail-Times.