Tuesday, April 22, 2003

A perfect story for Earth Day: Richard Flanagan, author of the grand novel Gould's Book of Fish (one of the half-dozen best books I read last year), withdrew himself from consideration for the Tasmania Pacific Region Prize, which he had been instrumental in establishing, in order to protest the cutting of old-growth hardwood forests in his home island, after Tasmania's Forestry Commission turned out to be one of the prize's co-sponsors.

Mr. Flanagan, a descendant of Irish convicts, said he intended to withdraw quietly. But when his friend Tim Winton heard, Mr. Winton, also an acclaimed novelist, followed suit. He withdrew his novel "Dirt Music," which evokes the vastness of space and describes the life of the edge-of-society characters in Western Australia.

That seemed to be the end of it, but then, after the short list was announced, Peter Carey, who was odds-on favorite for "True History of the Kelly Gang," announced that he, too, was withdrawing. Mr. Carey, who lives in New York, is one of Australia's best-known writers. His books include "Oscar and Lucinda" and "Jack Maggs."

Finally Joan London withdrew after she was short-listed for "Gilgamesh," a moving account of a woman who was born on a tiny farm in remote Western Australia and who meets the modern world through a cousin who had worked on an archaeological dig in Iraq.

Mr. Flanagan said that Ms. London, the least known, had made the biggest sacrifice because the prize would have meant recognition for her. But he would not criticize authors who did not withdraw.

No comments: