A novel which judges say ‘will bring readers back from the dead’ has won the 2018 $50,000 Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize in the country’s premier book awards.
Wellington writer Pip Adam received the honour for her novel The New Animals (Victoria University Press) at the glittering Ockham New Zealand Book Awards ceremony which also celebrated the Awards’ 50th anniversary, held in Auckland’s Aotea Centre tonight.
The New Animals, which parodies the Auckland fashion scene, was praised by the category judges as a confrontational, revelatory novel that holds a mirror up to contemporary New Zealand culture. They said: “The New Animals handles a large ensemble of unrooted characters with skill. It’s stylistically raw and reveals a good deal in a modest way. The New Animals is so vivid in imagery and imagination that the judges haven’t stopped thinking about it since. In this category in 2018 it’s the book with the most blood on the page. It will give you an electric shock.”
Listener journalist Diana Wichtel won the Royal Society Te Apārangi Award for General Non-Fiction for her memoir Driving to Treblinka: A long search for a lost father (Awa Press).
“The toughest task of any book, whatever the form, is to make a sentence so good that you just have to read the next one, and the next one, and then wish it could just about go on forever. So it is with Driving to Treblinka,” said the judges. “Wichtel’s curiosity, alternately upsetting and uplifting, turns invisibly into a kind of mission. At its heart this is a family story, but one which cannot but shine a light on the vestiges of anti-Semitism that linger in Europe today. It is not just a beautifully written book, but an important book, too.”
Elizabeth Smither OBE won the Poetry category – an honour bestowed on her twice before – with her collection Night Horse (Auckland University Press).
“The 2018 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards Poetry Award is for a book by an esteemed and celebrated poet who contributes greatly to the New Zealand writing community. The poems in Night Horse are gentle, uplifting, tender, humorous, well-crafted and luminous,” said the Poetry category judges.
Esteemed academics Alison Jones and Kuni Kaa Jenkins won the Illustrated Non-Fiction category for their work Tuai: A traveller in two worlds (Bridget Williams Books).
“Tuai is empathetically written, providing the reader a window into a contested time of meeting, conversion and enterprise. The text and illustrations work in concert, presenting a rounded and rich experience for the reader, enhancing the breadth and depth of the research explored within. Key moments are presented so richly that they envelop and captivate the imagination. The care the authors have given these histories, acknowledging the autonomy that mātauranga Māori has in wider Aotearoa historical narratives, is striking, and we need more of it,” the judges said.
The General Non-Fiction, Poetry and Illustrated Non-Fiction category winners each took home a $10,000 prize.
To add a further celebratory note, Ockham Residential confirmed its sponsorship commitment to the awards for a further five years.
“This year the New Zealand Book Awards have reached the golden age of fifty. However they have only been the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards for the last three years, which isn’t long enough in our book!, ” says Mark Todd, Managing Director and Co-Founder of Ockham Residential. “We are delighted to announce a new five-year sponsorship deal with the awards. With public discourse in disarray we need our writers more than ever.”
New Zealand Book Awards Trust chair, Nicola Legat, says Ockham’s commitment is a terrific boon for the Awards. “We are enormously grateful to Ockham for their generous ongoing commitment. What a terrific way to celebrate the Awards’ 50th anniversary; the country’s premier literary honours are in such good heart.”
Four Best First Book Awards were also presented at the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.
The Hubert Church Best First Book Award for Fiction: Baby by Annaleese Jochems (Victoria University Press).
The E.H. McCormick Best First Book Award for General Non-Fiction: Driving to Treblinka: A long search for a lost father by Diana Wichtel (Awa Press).
The Jessie Mackay Best First Book Award for Poetry: Fully Clothed and So Forgetful by Hannah Mettner (Victoria University Press).
The Judith Binney Best First Book Award for Illustrated Non-Fiction: Caves: Exploring New Zealand’s Subterranean Wilderness by Marcus Thomas and Neil Silverwood (Whio Publishing).
Each Best First Book Award winner received $2500.
The Awards ceremony was the first public event in the Auckland Writers Festival, which sees more than 200 of New Zealand’s and the world’s best writers and thinkers offering entertainment and ideas in words, song, theatre and more from 15-20 May.
Category winners appear in sessions at the Auckland Writers Festival: https://bit.ly/2IBUimg
The 2018 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards judges were:
Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize: Poet and academic Anna Smaill; journalist and reviewer Philip Matthews; and bookseller and reviewer Jenna Todd of the Auckland bookshop Time Out. Glasgow-based writer, journalist and founding editor of the Scottish Review of Books Alan Taylor joined the New Zealand judging team in selecting the Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize winner.
Royal Society Te Apārangi Award for General Non-Fiction: Ella Henry, lecturer in AUT’s Māori Faculty; editor and award-winning journalist Toby Manhire; and former bookseller and publisher, Philip King.
Illustrated Non-Fiction: Barbara Brookes, whose A History of New Zealand Women won this category of the awards in 2017; Matariki Williams, (Tūhoe, Taranaki, Ngāti Hauiti, Ngāti Whakaue), Curator Mātauranga Māori at Te Papa; and Kim Paton, Director of the public gallery Objectspace.
Poetry: Poet and novelist Alison Wong; poet Robert Sullivan, deputy chief executive, Māori, Manukau Institute of Technology; and poet, publisher and librettist Michael Harlow.
The Ockham New Zealand Book Awards are supported by Ockham Residential, Creative New Zealand, The Acorn Foundation, Book Tokens (NZ) Ltd and the Royal Society Te Apārangi.