Panthers and the Museum of Fire

By Jen Craig

Panthers & the Museum of Fire is a novella about walking, memory and writing. The narrator walks from Glebe to a central Sydney cafe to return a manuscript by a recently-dead writer. While she walks, the reader enters the narrator’s entire world: life with family and neighbours, narrow misses with cars, her singular friendships, dinner conversations and work. We learn of her adolescent desire for maturity and acceptance through a brush with religion, her anorexia, the exercise of that power when she was powerless in every other aspect of her life.

Jen Craig

Jen Craig’s short stories have appeared in publications including HEAT and Southerly. She collaborated with the composers of the chamber opera A Dictionary of Maladies in Switzerland in 2005. Her first novel, Since the Accident, was published in 2009. Panthers and the Museum of Fire is her second book, and was longlisted for the 2016 Stella Prize.

Judges' report

Panthers and the Museum of Fire is about a woman returning a manuscript to the sister of its deceased writer. It is immersively written in a stream-of-consciousness style that takes the reader directly into her reflections on life, friendship and, importantly, her own writing.

The unpretentious truths and agonies, soul-searching and tenuous self-regard of the artist’s life are brilliantly and immediately depicted, in writing that deploys European modernist literary techniques in an Australian setting. In Jen Craig’s novella, voice, character and vocation combine in a sophisticated and accessible narrative.

Further reading


‘There is so much that is intriguing in Panthers…Jen Craig is concerned with both loss of memory and the falsification of experience and she explores her themes through the technique he pioneered, a hypnotic “mash-up” of fact and fiction.’ Catherine Skipper, South Sydney Herald

Panthers & the Museum of Fire is genuinely fresh, radical, exciting, brave and utterly self-aware. It is unconcerned with anything except the telling of the story and the uniqueness of its voice. The fact that it is reckless with conventions only deepens its charm and appeal.’ Lynette Washington, The Clothes Line

‘The writing is brilliant, the sentences surround the subject matter like a maze. For those who like fiction that forces them into thought, this short work is one of the most uncompromising works of new literature you are likely to find this year.’ Ed Wright, The Australian