Thomas Keneally, one of Australia’s most acclaimed novelists, says he will share a $50,000 literary prize with his fellow nominees.
The 87-year-old novelist, who has previously won the Man Booker Prize and the Miles Franklin Prize, was announced Thursday as the winner of the ARA Historical Novel Prize for his latest novel Corporal Hitler’s Gun.
Upon accepting the prize, Keneally said he would donate $4,000 (£2,200) to the six authors who were on the ARA Prize long list: Karen Brooks, Lauren Chater, Steven Carroll, Portland Jones, Kim Kelly and David Whish -Wilson.
Geraldine Brooks and Robyn Mundy, who were also shortlisted with Keneally, have already received $5,000 from the prize for their achievement.
“I wanted to take on some of the other writers on the long list because writing — for young and old — is often about combining paltry sums to make a living,” Keneally told ABC Radio.
“Writing a novel at 87 is exactly the same process as writing at 25,” he added, “but we have to win a prize once in a while to be able to maintain the illusion that we are a novelist. “
Keneally is the author of Schindler’s Ark, the book adapted from Steven Spielberg’s film, Schindler’s List. He won the Man Booker Prize in 1982 and the Miles Franklin Prize in 1967.
Corporal Hitler’s Gun, Keneally’s 35th novel, is based on a story the author heard in his hometown of Kempsey, New South Wales, that there was a local farmer who had once restrained Hitler prisoner and took his pistol. The novel explores the impacts of interwar trauma on rural Australian communities.
Also on Thursday evening, Katrina Nannestad was named the winner of the ARA Historical Novel Prize Young Readers category, for her novel Rabbit, Soldier, Angel, Thief. The novel follows a Russian boy trying to survive alone during World War II.
This is not the first time an Australian author has shared his winnings with his fellow nominees. The first-ever Stella Prize winner, Carrie Tiffany, shared $10,000 of her $50,000 prize among the other five shortlisted writers.
And when British writer Olivia Laing won the James Tait Black Prize in 2019, she split her £10,000 prize among her fellow shortlisted writers, saying “competition has no place in art”.