Miles Franklin Award
Named after famed author Stella Miles Franklin, the Miles Franklin Award is presented to great works of literature and that best illustrates Australian life. Stella Miles Franklin was an award-winning author during the turn of the century, and unbeknownst to anyone, she saved all of her money so it could be used to fund this award. This is particularly notable as she was never wealthy and often had to scrape by herself.
The first recipient of the Miles Franklin Award was Patrick White in 1957 for his novel Voss. Back then the cash prize was only £500, but winners now receive a cash prize of $60,000.
Due to the award parameters that insist that nominated works must present life in Australia in any of its phases, there has been some resulting controversy as to what exactly that could entail. Author Frank Moorhouse was disqualified from consideration for his novel Grand Days because the story was set in Europe during the 1920?s. However, Moorhouse went on to win the Miles Franklin Award in 2001 for his later novel, Dark Palace.
Perhaps the biggest controversy concerning the Miles Franklin Award concerned author Helen Darville, also known as Helen Demidenko. Her novel The Hand that Signed the Paper won the Miles Franklin Award in 1995, and the Australian literary community erupted in response. There has been much speculation about the historical accuracy, alleged anti-Semitism, and even the true ethnic identity of the author. Many have since argued that Darville should not have been nominated for the award, and the reputation of the Miles Franklin Award took a swift hit. However, there has been little controversy since then, and the Miles Franklin Award continues to be one of the most prestigious literary awards in Australia.
Other past winners have included Thea Astley for The Slow Natives, Peter Casey for Bliss, and Andrew McGahan for The White Earth.
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