The Swan Book

By Alexis Wright Giramondo


Alexis Wright

Judges' report


A hundred years into the future, when climate change has irreparably damaged the earth, a refugee from the frozen northern hemisphere called Bella Donna finds a mute teenage girl she names Oblivia and takes her to live with her on an old derelict warship in a dry, polluted swamp in northern Australia. Three new figures appear: a black swan, an Aboriginal elder who looks like Mick Jagger, and an archangel in a white Commodore. These five creatures anchor Alexis Wright’s brilliantly surreal and inventive novel about imagination and the power of story. It’s a  treasure chest of stories, fables, songs, myths and poems, containing a wealth of cultural references from across the globe. The Swan Book is also a furious and impassioned political fable, linking the fate of Aboriginal Australia to the trajectory of unstoppable global warming and employing the fathomless complexity of the living Aboriginal relationship to country as a way of exploring humanity’s connection to the earth.

If Wright’s last novel Carpentaria – the winner of the 2007 Miles Franklin Literary Award – was operatic in its scope and language, then The Swan Book is even more so. Rich and deep in its imagery, fearless in its linguistic acrobatics and sweeping in its imaginative power, The Swan Book is at once a futuristic dystopia, a gorgeous artifact, and an urgent call to action.