Biographer Brenda Niall wins Australian Literature Society Gold Medal


MannixLast night the Australian Literature Society (ALS) awarded its Gold Medal to biographer Brenda Niall, for Mannix, her biography of Daniel Mannix, the Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne from 1917 until 1963.

The ALS Gold Medal is awarded annually for an outstanding literary work in the preceding calendar year. The Medal was inaugurated by the Australian Literature Society, which was founded in Melbourne in 1899 and incorporated into the Association for the Study of Australian Literature in 1982. The winner receives a gold medal. No nominations are required, though ASAL members are invited to propose potential winners to the judging panel.

The shortlist for the 2016 ALS Gold Medal was:

  • MODJESKA, Drusilla. Second Half First, Knopf
  • NIALL, Brenda. Mannix, Text Publishing
  • BRADLEY, James. Clade, Penguin
  • BENNETT DAYLIGHT, Tegan. Six Bedrooms, Vintage.

In an interview with Jason Steger, Niall says:

“Definitive biography, I think, is nonsense; to think you have it all sewn up. People are not as simple as that. Unless there’s some mystery and the mystery will always remain, I think, it isn’t human.”

Steger, in the same article, notes thatNiall has written biographies of Georgiana McCrae, Judy Cassab, Father William Hackett, Mary and Elizabeth Durack, and the Boyd family. She finds the genre’s appeal in its location between fiction and history.
“I’m not a historian. I like the puzzle of biography and in a way I probably like having to make sense of certain things to understand people and times.”
Don’t we all?
Congratulations to Niall and to Text, her publisher.

3 responses »

  1. I considered posting this but didn’t in the end. I think Niall is a worthy winner (though I haven’t read this). Enjoyed her statement to Steger on the definitive biography. Probably encouraging to other biographers? I’ve read and posted on her Durack sisters biography and would love to read the Boyd one. I know Lisa read Mannix, and I’m sure it’s interesting, but I somehow don’t think I’ll get to it.


  2. Yes, I was probably more interested in Niall’s statements to Steger than her win! Although good on her, obviously. I won’t be reading this one either – Mannix doesn’t interest me, no matter how well written it is.


  3. Pingback: 2016 National Biography Award shortlist | ANZ LitLovers LitBlog

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