Arnold Zable

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Arnold Zable (born 1947) is an Australian writer, novelist, storyteller and human rights advocate. His books include the memoir 'Jewels and Ashes', three novels: 'Café Scheherazade', 'Scraps of Heaven', and 'Sea of Many Returns', two collections of stories: 'The Fig Tree' and 'Violin Lessons'. His most recent book, 'The Fighter', set in contemporary and post-war Melbourne, was published in 2016.


Zable was born on 10 January 1947 in Wellington, New Zealand to Polish-Jewish refugee parents.[1] They moved early in his life to Australia and he grew up in Carlton, Victoria.

Themes and style[edit]

Zable is known as a storyteller - through his memoirs, short stories and novels. Australian critic Susan Varga says that Zable's award-winning memoir, Jewels and Ashes, "was a ground-breaking book in Australia, one of the first of what has since become a distinct auto/biographical genre: a second-generation writer returns to the scene of unspeakable crimes to try to understand a fraught and complex legacy, and, in so doing, embarks on a journey into the self."[2]

In an interview Zable explained that the rights and experiences of refugees and asylum seekers underpins his work:

The current generation of refugees are experiencing the intense challenges faced by previous generations. We tend to forget, or fail to imagine, how difficult it is to start life anew far from the homeland. We forget also that nostalgia, the longing for the return to homeland, is a deep and enduring aspect of the refugee experience.[3]

In the same interview he said about his language that "I am drawn to the quirky sayings and observations that define a person or a culture".[3]

Awards and nominations[edit]

  • 1991 National Council Lysbeth Cohen Award for Jewels and Ashes[4]
  • 1991 Ethnic Affairs Commission Award for Jewels and Ashes[4]
  • 1992 FAW ANA Literature Award for Jewels and Ashes[4]
  • 1992 Braille Book of the Year Award for Jewels and Ashes[4]
  • 1992 Talking Book of the Year award for Jewels and Ashes[4]
  • 2001 Short-listed New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards for fiction for Cafe Scheherazade
  • 2003 People's Choice Award, Tasmanian Pacific Fiction Prize for Cafe Scheherazade
  • 2004 National Folk Recording Award for The Fig Tree
  • 2010 Nominated for The International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award for Sea of Many Returns
  • 2013 The Victorian Council for Civil Liberties Voltaire Award.
  • 2015: Life membership, Writers Victoria
  • 2016: Short-listed, The Victorian Premier's Literary Awards for 'The Fighter.'
  • 2016: Short-listed, The New South Wales Literary awards for 'The Fighter.'
  • 2017: The Australia Council Fellowship for Literature


  • Jewels and Ashes (1991)
  • Wanderers and Dreamers (1998)
  • Cafe Scheherazade (2001)
  • The Fig Tree (2002)
  • Scraps of Heaven (2004)
  • Sea of Many Returns (2008)
  • Violin Lessons (2011)
  • The Fighter (2016)

External links[edit]