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Cohen wins inaugural Russell Prize for Humour Writing

Bernard Cohen’s The Antibiography of Robert F Menzies (HarperCollins) has won the inaugural Russell Prize for Humour Writing.

The book was chosen for the $10,000 biennial prize from a shortlist of six, which included: A Short History of Stupid (Helen Razer & Bernard Keane, A&U), Boomer & Me (Jo Case, Hardie Grant), I, Migrant (Sami Shah, A&U), The Full Ridiculous (Mark Lamprell, Text) and The Wife Drought (Annabel Crabb, Ebury).

The judging panel, consisting of Kathryn Heyman, Paula Tierney and James Tierney, praised the novel for its ‘biting wit’ and ‘ambitious themes, ridicule and craft’. ‘At times a reader might be encountering a novel, a biography, a political satire or the wittiest PhD exegesis there’s ever been,’ said the judges. Heyman said the judges felt Cohen’s book ‘perfectly captured the states of nervy restlessness in the Australian psyche, while possessing the grace of great fiction’.

Cohen’s political satire tells the story of a resurrected and discontent Robert Menzies who escapes from Canberra, and the Antibiographer who, after falling years behind schedule on his Menzies biography, seizes the opportunity to document this moment in Australian political history and save his writing career.

Cohen has announced he plans to donate $5000 of the prize money to Save the Children for their work with children in detention on Nauru and $5000 to hospitals for children’s play equipment.

The Russell Prize for Humour Writing is administered by the State Library of NSW and was launched in December 2014 to ‘celebrate, recognise and encourage humour writing’. NSW state librarian and chief executive Alex Byrne praised Cohen and the shortlisted authors for showing ‘how humour is not only there to entertain us but to, perhaps more importantly, raise and promote important discussions about our contemporary culture’.


For more information about the award, visit the website here.



Category: Local news