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Laguna wins 2021 Colin Roderick Literary Award

Sofie Laguna has won the $20,000 Colin Roderick Literary Award and the H T Priestley Medal for her novel Infinite Splendours (A&U).

Laguna’s coming-of-age story of a boy living in rural Victoria was chosen from a shortlist of six for the award, which is administered by the Foundation for Australian Literary Studies (FALS), based at James Cook University’s Bebegu Yumba campus in Townsville.

In a statement announcing the winner, James Cook University said the ‘capacious, brooding and brilliant book’ left a deep impression on the judges who were unanimous in their decision.

‘While not without humour, the novel is concerned with some of the most pressing issues in Australian society, as well as the role of art and artists in responding to these crises,’ said the statement. ‘One of the many striking elements of Infinite Splendours is its mixture of weight of subject and lightness of voice. The narrative is poetically rich but also precise and persuasive.’

‘I wrote the book because I had a central character, Lawrence Loman, with much to express,’ said Laguna. ‘I was deeply interested in this man’s life—his childhood and its unspoken trauma, his painful transition into adulthood, and his life as an artist. I wanted to show the price the boy would pay, but more than that, I wanted the boy to survive. I wanted to show the redemptive nature of art. The way it heals and contains and provides meaning. I wanted Lawrence to find a path forward.’

Laguna said she is ‘thrilled to be the recipient of the 2021 Colin Roderick Literary Award and am honoured and grateful to the Foundation for Australian Literary Studies, to the late Professor Colin Roderick, and his wife, Margaret Roderick’.

‘Writers don’t write books with prizes in mind—our reasons are far stranger, more mysterious and complex—but to have our work acknowledged in this very public and generous way is deeply affirming, not to mention helpful in the most practical of ways.’

Laguna was previously longlisted for the award for her 2017 novel The Choke (A&U).

Established in 1967, the Colin Roderick Award is presented to the author of the title the judges determine is the best book published in Australia in the previous calendar year that deals with ‘any aspect of Australian life’.

Last year’s winner was Sally Young for Paper Emperors: The rise of Australia’s newspaper empires (UNSW Press). For more information about the Colin Roderick Award, see the FALS website.


Category: Awards Local news