Red Heaven by Nicolas Rothwell wins Prime Minister’s Literary Award for fiction

13 December 2022

Red Heaven by Nicolas Rothwell, book cover

Far North Queensland writer Nicolas Rothwell has been named winner of the 2022 Australian Prime Minister’s Literary Award in the fiction category, with his 2021 novel, Red Heaven. Published by Text Publishing, Red Heaven recounts the childhood of a boy growing up in Europe in the 1960s:

It begins in the late 1960s in Switzerland, as the boy’s ideas about life are being shaped by two rival influences. These are his so-called aunts — imperious, strong-willed, ambitious — both exiles, at the mercy of outside political events; both determined to make the boy into their own heir, an inheritor of their values. In self-contained episodes, each set in an alpine grand hotel, we see one aunt and then the other educate their protégé.

Serghiana, the ‘red princess’, is the daughter of a Soviet general, a producer of films and worshipper of art, a true believer. Ady, a former actress and singer, is a dilettante and cynic, Viennese, married to a great conductor: in her eyes, all is surface, truth a mere illusion. Memory and nostalgia — the aunts’ gifts to the boy, gifts of obligation — are the purest expression of love allowed them. Gradually he comes to understand the shadows in their past. Their stories stay with him, guiding his path through adolescence, until he can absorb the influences of the wider world.

Winners in other categories of this year’s awards include Human Looking, a collection of poetry by Andy Jackson, and The Gaps, by Leanne Hall, which won in the young adult category.


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