Palimpsest by Florina Enache, Australia’s 2022 Novel Prize contender

12 February 2023

Close up of typewriter keys, photo by Valerio Errani

Image courtesy of Valerio Errani.

The winner of the 2022 Novel Prize is due to be announced any day now. The award is a collaboration between Australian publishing house Giramondo, and international counterparts Fitzcarraldo Editions in Britain, and New Directions in the United States. Celebrating works of literary fiction that “are innovative and imaginative in style,” the Novel Prize is presented every two years, for unpublished manuscripts, regardless of whether the author has prior published work or not.

The inaugural prize was won by Melbourne based Australian author Jessica Au for her second book, Cold Enough for Snow, in 2020, which also won this year’s Victorian Prize for Literature.

But in 2023 the big question is, can another Australian writer take out the award, and make it two in a row for Australian literature? While that may be wishful thinking, the odds are the same as in 2020, with only one Australian author, Florina Enache, on the 2022 shortlist, for her manuscript Palimpsest. As a coincidence though, another of the Novel Prize 2020 shortlisted writers, Glenn Diaz, a Manila based Pilipino writer, happened to be studying in Australia at the time.

Enache, who like Au calls Melbourne home, was born in Romania, and immigrated to Australia in 2005. Her first book, An-Tan-Tiri Mogodan, published by Adelaide Books in August 2019, is a collection of twelve short stories, depicting ordinary life in a totalitarian regime. An-Tan-Tiri Mogodan went on to be shortlisted in the 2020 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards for new writing.

Totalitarian regimes seem to be a recurring theme in Enache’s work. Palimpsest is set in the days prior to the observance of a holiday called National Day. Participation is mandated by the nation’s oppressive government, and citizens are required to attend observances, referred to as “the great spectacle”, in the capital city.

Should Enache follow in Au’s footsteps and be named winner of the Novel Prize, her manuscript will be published by the three Novel Prize collaborating book publishers. In addition, Enache — or whoever the winner is — will receive US$10,000 in the form of an advance against royalties.


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