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UC academic’s novel shortlisted for prestigious prize

UC academic’s novel shortlisted for prestigious prize

A novel imaging an episode in the life of two of New Zealand’s literary icons, written by University of Canterbury academic Professor Patrick Evans, has been shortlisted in the South East Asia-Pacific section of the 2011 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize.

Professor Evans’ third novel, Gifted, is one of six short-listed for the South East Asia and Pacific Best Book prize. Other nominees for the prize include Lloyd Jones’ Hand Me Down World, Reading Madame Bovary by Amanda Lohrey and That Deadman Dance by Kim Scott.

Professor Evans said he was pleased to be shortlisted.

“But I’m well aware that I’m up against some stiff opposition,” he said.

Gifted, published late last year by Victoria University Press, is about a period in the lives of Frank Sargeson and Janet Frame that is “both well-known and unknown” said Professor Evans. It covers the 16 months after Janet emerged, in March 1955, from 10 years spent in and out of psychiatric hospitals. She was taken in by Sargeson to live and work in an old army hut on his Takapuna property.

“That she was sheltered and nurtured by him and wrote her first novel, Owls Do Cry, is well-known; but exactly what went on between them day-to-day is unknown, except that at times Sargeson found her demanding and bewildering to the point of despair. In the novel I imagine what happened and his slow understanding of the strange and individualistic way her mind worked.”

Professor Evans wrote the first biography of Janet Frame in 1977, has written about her work (An Inward Sun, 1971) and taught courses about Frame.

The winner of the South East Asia and Pacific Best Book prize, which will be announced on 3 March, will go on to compete against other writers at the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize final event, which is this year being held during the Sydney Writers’ Festival in May. The overall winners will be announced on 21 May.

The Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, established in 1987, is organised and funded by the Commonwealth Foundation and is supported by the Macquarie Group Foundation. It is a leading award for works of fiction and its aim is to recognise the best fiction by both established and emerging writers from Commonwealth countries.


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