“We are all struggling. To acknowledge that is to connect to our fellow human beings and to nature…”
In an evening centered around the theme ‘If They Could Talk: On Voice and Voicelessness’, Evie Wyld took out the 2021 Stella Prize and the $50,000 prize for her novel The Bass Rock, “a fearless novel that gives voice to the spirits of wronged girls and women across time and reminds us of the saving grace of sisterhood”.
Wyld grew up in Australia and the UK and is part owner of Review, a small independent bookshop in London. She is no stranger to literary success, with her previous novels taking out the 2014 Miles Franklin Award, the 2013 Encore Award, the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, a Betty Trask Award, and the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize. She’s also previously been shortlisted for the Orange Prize for New Writers, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, the International Dublin Literary Award, the Costa Novel Prize, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and longlisted for the 2014 Stella Prize and the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction.
“I started writing The Bass Rock in a pre #MeToo world and now I’m talking about it in a post-Covid one,’ Wyld said. ‘When I first thought about writing this book in which the central idea was that all of the violence ever committed against women was committed by the same malign presence, I thought it would have to be a high concept, speculative, full of magic and monsters sort of novel. But as I wrote it, I came to see that the power of this story came from the threads that bound these three women in their common experience. The problem is that it’s not a monster, it’s part of the fabric of everything. The poisonous narratives that lead women to believe their safety is worth less than male dignity begin with the messages we send about what sort of work matters.”
Host Noni Hazelhurst AM lamented the lack of government funding for the arts and the misconception that art is a part-time profession. She said artists have to fight hard to have a seat at the table, and that the six Stella shortlistees (Mirandi Riwoe, Laura Jean McKay, Evie Wyld, S.L. Lim, Louise Milligan and Rebecca Giggs) have well and truly earned those seats. Gamilaroi writer and academic Amy Thunig, in presenting the Stella Address, encouraged viewers to ‘disrupt’ our worlds, boardrooms, bookshelves, and cultures that devalue the arts, by thinking about whose stories we invest in and consume. The event ended with a live performance from Emma Donovan and the Putbacks.
You can watch the full announcement and presentation below.
First awarded in 2013, the Stella Prize was created to help counter the lack of female authors seen on award lists. Celebrating the very best in Australian women’s writing, the Stella Prize covers both fiction and non-fiction, with the yearly winner taking home a $50,000 prize. Spanning fiction and non-fiction, the six titles shortlisted for the 2021 Stella Prize invite readers to reach beyond their own perceptions, to question social and political systems, and to examine their place in the world.
The 2021 judging panel was chaired by award-winning author, Feminartsy founder, and Margin Notes co-host Zoya Patel, who was joined by award-winning author and playwright Jane Harrison, radio producer and presenter Elizabeth McCarthy, former The Saturday Paper books editor Ian See, and Edinburgh International Book Festival Deputy Programme Director Tamara Zimet.
For more info on the prize, including the full shortlist and longlist, see the Stella Prize website.
Header image: Urszula Soltys