The Many Worlds of R H Matthews: In Search of an Australian Anthropologist by Martin Thomas (A&U) has won this year’s National Biography Award, presented on 14 May at the State Library of New South Wales in Sydney.
Thomas’ book was selected from a shortlist of six, which also included Good Living Street: The Fortunes of My Viennese Family (Tim Bonyhady, A&U), Michael Kirby: Paradoxes & Principles (A J Brown, Federation Press), Sydney (Delia Falconer, NewSouth), How to Make Gravy (Paul Kelly, Hamish Hamilton) and An Eye for Eternity: The Life of Manning Clark (Mark McKenna, MUP). Thomas will receive $25,000 in cash, with the prize money for the award increasing from $20,000 this year.
Australian Book Review editor and chair of the award’s judging panel Peter Rose said in a statement that Thomas’ book stood out for the judges ‘because of its originality, its immense detail and scholarship, and its luminous engagement with his subject’. ‘This is biography as cultural retrieval of the highest order,’ said Rose.
The National Biography Award is administered and presented by the State Library of NSW and is Australia’s richest prize for biographical writing and memoir. Last year, the award was presented to Grand Obsessions: The Life and Work of Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin by Alasdair McGregor (Lantern).
More information about the award can be found online here.