Perlman is the son of second-generation Jewish Australians of East European descent. Perlman studied law at Monash University in Melbourne, graduating in 1989. He was called to the Bar in 1997, but while working as a judge's associate in the early 1990s he started writing short stories, and won 'The Age' short story competition in 1994.
In 1994 he won The Age Short Story Award for The Reasons I Won't Be Coming, a short story that later gave the title to his first collection of short stories, published in 1999. In 1998, his first novel, Three Dollars, was published. It won The Age Book of the Year and the Betty Trask Prize. His second novel, Seven Types of Ambiguity, was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award, Australia's most prestigious literary award, in 2004. Perlman's third novel, The Street Sweeper, was published in 2011.
Themes and style
His work "condemns the economic rationalism that destroys the humanity of ordinary people when they are confronted with unemployment and poverty". This is not surprising in a writer who admires Raymond Carver and Graham Greene because they "write with quite a strong moral centre and a strong sense of compassion". However, he says, "Part of my task is to entertain readers. I don't want it to be propaganda at all. I don't think that for something to be political fiction it has to offer an alternative; I think just a social critique is enough." He describes himself, in fact, as being interested in "the essence of humanity" and argued that exploring this often means touching on political issues.
Perlman often uses music, and song lyrics, in his work to convey an idea or mood, or to give a sense of who a character is. However, he recognises that this is "a bit of a risk because the less familiar the reader is with the song, the smaller the pay off".
Awards and nominations
- 2012: Miles Franklin Award: longlisted for The Street Sweeper
- 2005: Australian Film Institute (AFI) Awards, Best Adapted Screenplay: winner for Three Dollars
- 2005: Film Critics Circle of Australia, Best Screenplay - Adapted: winner for Three Dollars
- 2005: AWGIE Awards, Film Award, Feature: shortlisted for Three Dollars
- 2004: Commonwealth Writers Prize, South East Asia and South Pacific Region, Best Book: shortlisted for Seven Types of Ambiguity
- 2004: Queensland Premier's Literary Awards, Best Fiction Book: shortlisted for Seven Types of Ambiguity
- 2004: Miles Franklin Award: shortlisted for Seven Types of Ambiguity
- 2000: Arts Queensland Steele Rudd Australian Short Story Award: joint winner for The Reasons I Won't Be Coming
- 1999: Betty Trask Award for Commonwealth Writers Under 35 Years: winner for Three Dollars
- 1999: Queensland Premier's Literary Awards, Best Literary Work Advancing Public Debate: joint winner for Three Dollars
- 1999: Miles Franklin Award: shortlisted for Three Dollars
- 1998: The Age Book of the Year Award, Book of the Year: winner for Three Dollars
- 1998: The Age Book of the Year Award, Fiction Prize: winner for Three Dollars
- 1994: The Age Short Story Award: winner for The Reasons I Won't Be Coming
Short story collection
- Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man at barristers.com.au
- Q & A with Elliot Perlman at the State Library of Victoria website
- 2012 radio interview (one hour) at The Bat Segundo Show
- Meet the writers: Elliot Perlman
- Monash Law Matters 2005/06
- Perlman, Elliot, austlit.edu.au
- "Elliot J PERLMAN". http://www.barristers.com.au/. Retrieved 2008-11-25.
- "Limmud-Oz 2008 - Festival of Jewish Learning & Culture - Elliot Perlman". http://www.shalom.edu.au/ Shalom Institute. 2003-09-14. Archived from the original on 2008-07-21. Retrieved 2008-11-25.
- "Books and Writing - John Mortimer & Elliot Perlman". http://www.abc.net.au/ Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 2003-09-14. Retrieved 2008-11-25.
- "Three Dollars - Elliot Perlman - 1998". http://www.middlemiss.org. Retrieved 2008-11-25.
- Betty Trask prize
- Announcing the 2004 Miles Franklin Literary Award Winner
- Perlman, Elliot (2001) "The world is closing in: an interview with Elliot Perlman by Byrne, Madeleine", Antipodes, 15 (1): 10-12