Only The Animals by Ceridwen Dovey wins Readings New Australian Writing Award

Only the Animals by Ceridwen Dovey is the winner of the inaugural Readings New Australian Writing Award 2014! Dovey will receive $4000 in prize money.

Our judges said:

Only the Animals is surely one of the boldest Australian short-story collections in recent years. Here is a rare beast – a work of fiction that is not only richly imaginative, but also intelligent, ambitious and universal in theme. Ceridwen Dovey has created a book that wears its literary antecedents – Kafka, Colette, Woolf, Coetzee – lightly, but with each story she proves that Only the Animals belongs in this sort of company.

The ten stories in this collection are each narrated by the soul of a different animal that has died during human conflict – from a Russian tortoise who drifts in space during the Cold War to a dolphin sent to Iraq by the US Navy. However, Only the Animals is more than just a contemplation of animal–human relationships. These inventive stories are playfully self-aware and deeply philosophical. They are by turn deeply moving, as in the story of two elephant sisters caught up in the 1987 Mozambique civil war, and slyly funny, as in the story of a mussel in the midst of an existential crisis at Pearl Harbor. Dovey’s narrators subvert our expectations and provoke us to consider questions of compassion and warfare, of gender and history, of loyalty and family bonds. These animals voice the uncomfortable, providing new ways of looking at our world.

Only the Animals is a luminous example of literature’s power to foster and develop empathy, and reveals how fiction, as opined by Camus, can truly be the lie through which we tell the truth.’


On winning the Award, Dovey said, ‘Readings already does an enormous amount to support local authors – from handselling our books in their beautiful independent bookstores to profiling emerging Australian writers in Readings Monthly – and the New Australian Writing Award builds on this admirable Readings tradition. I was proud simply to be on the shortlist beside so many authors whose work I admire, and I’m honoured to be the inaugural winner … Thanks also for the generosity of the prize, which allows me to buy that most valuable commodity to any author: time to write.’

Established earlier this year, the Readings New Australian Writing Award supports published Australian authors working in fiction, and recognises exciting and exceptional new contributions to local literature (to be eligible, books must be an author’s first or second published work only).

Our guest judge for 2014 was Hannah Kent, author of Burial Rites and co-founder and publishing director of literary journal Kill Your Darlings. Reflecting on the Award shortlist, Kent said, ‘All of the titles demonstrated extraordinary talent, vision and promise, and all deserve to be read by a wide and varied audience. Together, the shortlistees are proof that the future of Australian literature is in capable and fearless hands.’

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Only the Animals

Only the Animals

Ceridwen Dovey

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