From Susan Wyndham in last Saturday's Sydney Morning Herald:
'... the Barbara Jefferis Award ... is launched today by the Australian Society of Authors.
Offering prizemoney of "at least $35,000", the award will be given annually from next year to "the best novel written by an Australian author that depicts women and girls in a positive way or otherwise empowers the status of women and girls in society. The novel may be in any genre and it is not necessary for it to be set in Australia."
Among the country's most generous book awards, it is funded by a $1 million bequest from Jefferis's husband, John Hinde, the ABC film critic who died last year. Hinde has also funded a new film script award for the Australian Writers' Guild.
Rosalind Hinde, a Sydney biologist, said her father established the Jefferis Award in his will with "the very clear and strong intention to honour my mother's writing, her feminism and her devotion to other writers".'
I'd hoped to have a long, considered post about this award up at this site before I went to bed last night, but the more I think about it, the more worms -- big fat wriggly ones -- I realise there are in this particular can. Here are a few of them:
What is an Australian author? What does 'positive' mean, and what 'empowers'? What is a level playing field, and why do we need one? How are women currently represented in Australian fiction, how were they in the past, and why is it more complicated than a simple 'for women only' literary prize? Why do people think it's their right to condemn and interfere with what other people choose to do in their wills with their own money?
So I am working on a long post trying to tease out all the different strands of our assumptions about writing and writers, about essentialism and feminism, about nationalism and whatever the other thing is, that are woven tighly up in this new award and the discussion about it. But I may, as Captain Oates remarked, be some time.