The 2020 Deborah Cass Prize for Writing has been awarded to 27 year-old Anith Mukherjee for his story ‘I Am Full Of Love’.
The 2020 Judging Panel (writers Melanie Cheng, Lee Kofman and Sisonke Msimang) commented that: “The high calibre of shortlisted works made our job of choosing the winner and the two runners-up difficult, but we feel that the trio we arrived at have the potential to make a significant contribution to the Australian literary scene.”
Lee Kofman presented on behalf of the judges at an online award ceremony:
“At the start of Anith’s brilliant work, the South Asian-Australian protagonist responds to his fellow film student’s suggestion to make a movie about the ‘brown diaspora’ by saying ‘I don’t want to make something about being brown just because I’m brown. It’s all they expect of us.’ This bold line sets the tone for what is to come – an urgent, defiant tale of a compelling, at times exasperating, narrator who refuses to conform to any norms, positive or negative… Candid, tragicomic, brimming with allusions, Anith’s prose sings. More than sings, it is visceral… Here then is a true talent.”
The runners up are Dasha Maiorova for the extract from her novel Birch and Sahib Nazari for his story Alone Together. Each runner-up receives $1000. The judges commented:
“Dasha takes the migrant experience into two relatively uncharted territories. She reinterprets it in the genre of contemporary gothic fiction and she creates a migrant’s journey that moves in the opposite direction to the literary norm. Dasha entices us into her story from the very first page through building great suspense, and through her assured, polished-to-a-shine prose that shows a fine attention to detail and a wonderful sense of place. The resulting read is unputdownable.”
“Sahib’s short story is primarily set in the bloody, pungent environment of a slaughterhouse where the young Afghani narrator works alongside true-blue Aussies. Sahib makes genuine poetry out of the muck as well as out of the Australian working-class slang which he pitches to perfection. His writing pulsates with humour and raw sensuality, refreshing in its lack of euphemism, and the story unfolds with energy, capturing the protagonist’s continuous oscillation between alienation and hard-won human connection.”
Watch the video of the 2020 Deborah Cass Prize for Writing Ceremony held on Thursday 26 November. With thanks to guest speaker Philippe Sands (lawyer and Baillie Gifford Prize-winning author of The Ratline), MC Elly Varrenti, 2017 prize winner Rafeif Ismail and judge Lee Kofman.