'Splendid' novel wins 2021 Colin Roderick Literary Award
The enthralling coming-of-age story of a boy living in rural Victoria has won this year’s Colin Roderick Literary Award.
The Award, administered by the Foundation for Australian Literary Studies based at James Cook University’s Bebegu Yumba campus in Townsville, has gone to Sofie Laguna’s novel Infinite Splendours.
Having previously been longlisted for her 2017 novel The Choke, Ms Laguna has been awarded the $20,000 prize and its accompanying H.T. Priestley Memorial Medal.
“I am thrilled to be the recipient of the 2021 Colin Roderick Literary Award and am honoured and grateful to the Foundation for Australian Literary Studies, to the late Professor Colin Roderick, and his wife, Margaret Roderick,” Ms Laguna said.
“Writers don’t write books with prizes in mind – our reasons are far stranger, more mysterious and complex – but to have our work acknowledged in this very public and generous way is deeply affirming, not to mention helpful in the most practical of ways.”
With heartbreaking intensity, Infinite Splendours tells the story of Laurie Loman, a bright, artistic 10-year-old boy living in rural Victoria as he experiences horrific betrayal, and in the aftermath tries to recover his life and sense of identity.
As Laurie grows older, he matures only in limited ways and his distance and difference from the world become ever greater. He finds purpose and pleasure mainly in the natural world and his paintings of it. But this work as an artist, like all the most important experiences of his life, is not really part of his public identity. Instead, he is seen as threateningly different.
While not without humour, the novel is concerned with some of the most pressing issues in Australian society, as well as the role of art and artists in responding to these crises.
One of the many striking elements of Infinite Splendours is its mixture of weight of subject and lightness of voice. The narrative is poetically rich but also precise and persuasive.
A capacious, brooding and brilliant book, Infinite Splendours left a deep impression on the judges who were unanimous in their decision.
“I wrote the book because I had a central character, Lawrence Loman, with much to express,” Ms Laguna said.
“I was deeply interested in this man’s life – his childhood and its unspoken trauma, his painful transition into adulthood, and his life as an artist.
“I wanted to show the price the boy would pay, but more than that, I wanted the boy to survive. I wanted to show the redemptive nature of art. The way it heals and contains and provides meaning. I wanted Lawrence to find a path forward.”
Ms Laguna has previously been recognised for her literary talents in 2015 with adult novel The Eye of the Sheep, which won that year’s Miles Franklin Literary Award.
Now in its 55th iteration, the Colin Roderick Literary Award will see Ms Laguna join a list of Roderick winners that includes many of Australia’s most renowned writers of fiction and non-fiction, poetry and prose.
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