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  • Don Watson’s The Bush wins Indie book of the year award

    2018 - 07.03

    Don Watson.
    Nanjing Night Net

    The Bush by Don Watson.

    Don Watson.

    The Bush by Don Watson.

    Don Watson.

    The Bush by Don Watson.

    Don Watson could hardly have been further from the bush when he agreed to write about it. He was living in New York and writing American Journeys, his prize-winning exploration of the US that required an equally substantial intellectual and physical journey. Perhaps if he’d been closer to home, he might have had second thoughts.

    “When I looked again and realised I had to do it, I thought it must have been a moment of extreme hubris because it was a monster.”

    The Bush: Travels to the Heart of Australia, which was published late last year, has been named overall winner in the annual Indie Book Awards, which are voted on by more than 170 independent bookshops. The book is a personal, historical and sociological account of Australia outside its cities. Watson also won the non-fiction Indie. Other winners were: fiction, Golden Boys by Sonya Hartnett;  debut fiction, Foreign Soil by Maxine Beneba Clark; and children’s/ YA fiction, Withering by the Sea, by Judith Rossell. The awards were announced in Sydney on Wednesday night.

    Watson said his subject was “so absurdly broad and Hydra-headed. It was horrible to wrestle with and I was also conscious that a large part of Australia’s truly great writing is about the bush.  It’s not just the Henry Lawsons and the Les Murrays and Judith Wrights, it’s the scientists also in the room with you …  You know it’s very hard to type with someone looking over your shoulder – you tend to make mistakes. It was like having the whole lot of them.”

    Watson grew up in Gippsland but learned a lot while writing The Bush: “I was a perfect example of how little we know, although I thought I knew something.”

    One of the pleasures had been talking to people with a scientific understanding of the Bush. Less satisfying had been not being able to talk to more. “It was satisfying to go to places I’d never been before, less satisfying not to go to a whole lot of places because even if I’d worked on it for 40 years I couldn’t have got there.”

    Watson said he had felt a bit like an early explorer going out into the bush. The more it slowly revealed itself to him the more he became more aware of the magnitude of his ambition and the limitations of his ability to conquer it. Judging by The Bush, he did.

    This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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