The World Was Whole

By Fiona Wright Giramondo Publishing

Our bodies and homes are our shelters, each one intimately a part of the other. But what about those who feel anxious, uncomfortable, unsettled within these havens? In The World Was Whole, Fiona Wright examines how we inhabit and remember the familiar spaces of our homes and suburbs, as we move through them and away from them into the wider world, devoting ourselves to the routines and rituals that make up our lives. These affectingly personal essays consider how all-consuming the engagement with the ordinary can be, and how even small encounters and interactions can illuminate our lives.

Many of the essays are set in the inner and south-western suburbs of a major Australian city in the midst of rapid change. Others travel to the volcanic coastline of Iceland, the mega-city of Shanghai, the rugged Surf Coast of southern Victoria. The essays are poetic and observant, and often funny, animated by curiosity and candour. Beneath them all lies the experience of chronic illness and its treatment, and the consideration of how this can reshape and reorder our assumptions about the world and our place within it.

Fiona Wright

Fiona Wright is a writer, editor and critic from Sydney. Her book of essays Small Acts of Disappearance: Essays on Hunger won the 2016 Nita B. Kibble Award and the Queensland Literary Award for nonfiction and was shortlisted for the Stella Prize and the NSW Premier’s Douglas Stewart Award. Her first poetry collection, Knuckled, won the 2012 Dame Mary Gilmore Award, while Domestic Interior was shortlisted for the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Poetry. She completed a PhD at Western Sydney University’s Writing & Society Research Centre. Her poems and essays have been published in the AustralianMeanjinIslandOverlandThe Lifted BrowSeizure and HEAT.

Judges' report

The World Was Whole, Fiona Wright’s second collection of essays, is a taut and expansive mix of everyday observations, cultural theory, social commentary and memoir. Thematically linked with Wright’s earlier work – dealing as it does with issues of sickness – The World Was Whole weaves ordinary day-to-day issues with philosophical musings.

Throughout this collection, Wright reflects on the idea of home, hunger and eating, on travel, pets, routine and the cost of housing, on the weather and bushfires, and many more contemporary issues. With passionate attention, she ruminates on the need for routine and change, and delves deeply into issues of identity and its connection to place.

Wright’s voice, beautifully suited to the essay form, is profoundly moving and personal as she probes and analyses. This collection, which ends on an overwhelmingly upbeat and positive note, gives luminous insight into the mind of an extraordinarily talented poet and thinker. In doing so, it gently prods us towards a clearer and more compassionate way of thinking.

Further reading


‘This exquisite book challenges us to think about how we inhabit the world, by making its invisible structures vividly visible.’ Jo Case, Sydney Morning Herald

‘Wright has made poetry out of her habits in these pages; she’s made a kind of home out of words.’ The Saturday Paper


Read ‘Finding home: Fiona Wright on The World Was Whole’ in Books+Publishing

Read Fiona Wright on The World Was Whole in Guardian Australia