Praiseworthy by Alexis Wright, wins the 2024 Stella Prize

3 May 2024

Queensland/Waanyi author Alexis Wright, has been named winner of the 2024 Stella Prize for Australian literature, for works by women and non-binary writers, with Praiseworthy, a novel set in the north of Australia.

In a small town dominated by a haze cloud, which heralds both an ecological catastrophe and a gathering of the ancestors, a crazed visionary seeks out donkeys as the solution to the global climate crisis and the economic dependency of the Aboriginal people. His wife seeks solace from his madness in following the dance of butterflies and scouring the internet to find out how she can seek repatriation for her Aboriginal/Chinese family to China. One of their sons, called Aboriginal Sovereignty, is determined to commit suicide. The other, Tommyhawk, wishes his brother dead so that he can pursue his dream of becoming white and powerful.

Beejay Silcox, chair of the 2024 Stella judges panel, described Wright’s novel, which was published in 2023, as a great Australian novel, and mighty in every regard:

Praiseworthy is mighty in every conceivable way: mighty of scope, mighty of fury, mighty of craft, mighty of humour, mighty of language, mighty of heart.

Praiseworthy is not only a great Australian novel — perhaps the great Australian novel — it is also a great Waanyi novel. And it is written in the wild hope that, one day, all Australian readers might understand just what that means. I do not understand. Not yet. But I can feel history calling to me in these pages. Calling to all of us. Imagine if we listened.

Praiseworthy is an epic novel. Figuratively. And literally. With a page count of over seven-hundred, I’ve so far not been game enough to pick it up. I’m struggling to read novels with less than half as many pages. This is also Wright’s second Stella win, her 2017 novel Tracker, took out the 2018 prize.


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