Congratulations to Nam Le who today won the best fiction prize in the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards for 2009.
You can read his complete victory speech, presented in absentia, here. It was written prior to any knowledge of winning the award and I’m particularly taken with the following paragraph, copied from the aforementioned report at The Australian online:
Thank you to the government and relevant department for their support, Prime Minister Rudd and Minister Garrett for theirs, for affirming the value of literature to this country’s life. It’s an anodyne thing to say but maybe it needs to be said, and said again and again: that books matter, that they are the truest means of telling and showing us to ourselves, that they do a strange, unaccountable, irreplacable work that the loose, baggy monsters of film, TV, and internet cannot. Part of that work is the faith to put readers to work: to invite readers to share an act of imagination with the work, to seek out complexities in the friction zone of consciousness and reality, to encourage readers, in that act of imaginative completion, to convince themselves that the concerns of the book in their hands are their concerns as well. This, for me, is the beginning of real community. Other media – in their unilateralism, their lowest common denominator appeal, their stimulus-gratification approach and visual-realist imperatives – are less capable of achieving such engagement.
Bravo and well said. Books set the imagination to work. Books build community.