David Malouf

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David Malouf

David Malouf at the 2019 Perth Festival Writers Week
David Malouf at the 2019 Perth Festival Writers Week
Born (1934-03-20) 20 March 1934 (age 90)
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
  • Novelist
  • short story writer
  • poet
  • playwright
Alma materUniversity of Queensland
  • Novel
  • short story
  • poem
  • play
  • opera libretto
Notable works
Notable awardsGrace Leven Prize for Poetry
Australian Literature Society Gold Medal
Christina Stead Prize for Fiction
Pascall Prize
Miles Franklin Award
Prix Femina Étranger
Christina Stead Prize for Fiction
Prix Femina Étranger
Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction
International Dublin Literary Award
Neustadt International Prize for Literature
Australia-Asia Literary Award
Australia Council Award for Lifetime Achievement in Literature

David George Joseph Malouf AO[1] (mah-LOOF;[2] born 20 March 1934) is an Australian poet, novelist, short story writer, playwright and librettist. Elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2008, Malouf has lectured at both the University of Queensland and the University of Sydney. He also delivered the 1998 Boyer Lectures.

Malouf's 1974 collection Neighbours in a Thicket: Poems won the Grace Leven Prize for Poetry and the Australian Literature Society Gold Medal. His 1990 novel The Great World won numerous awards, including the 1991 Miles Franklin Award and Prix Femina Étranger His 1993 novel Remembering Babylon was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and won the 1994 Prix Femina Étranger, the 1994 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction, the 1995 Prix Baudelaire and the 1996 International Dublin Literary Award. Malouf was awarded the Neustadt International Prize for Literature in 2000, the Australia-Asia Literary Award in 2008 and the Australia Council Award for Lifetime Achievement in Literature in 2016. He has been mentioned as a candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature.[3]

Early life[edit]

Malouf was born in Brisbane, Australia, to a Christian Lebanese father and an English-born mother of Portuguese Sephardi Jewish descent. His paternal family had immigrated from Lebanon in the 1880s, while his mother's family had moved to England via the Netherlands, before migrating to Australia in 1913.[4]

He attended Brisbane Grammar School and graduated from the University of Queensland with a B.A. degree in 1955.[1] He lectured for a short period before moving to London, where he taught at Holland Park School, before relocating to Birkenhead in 1962.[5] He returned to Australia in 1968, taught at his old school,[6] and lectured in English at the Universities of Queensland and Sydney.[7]

Personal life[edit]

Malouf identifies as gay.[8]

He has lived in England and Tuscany, and for the past three decades spent most of his time in Sydney.[7]


Though he would later become known abroad for his prose works, Malouf initially concentrated on poetry.[2][9] His first work appeared in 1962, as part of a book he shared with three more Australian poets.[2]

His collection Neighbours in a Thicket: Poems (1974) features childhood memories, his mother, his sister, travelling in Europe and war.[9]

1992 brought the publication of Poems, 1959–1989.[2] Some of his poetry was also collected in Revolving Days: Selected Poems (2008), which is divided into four sections: on childhood, then Europe, then relocating to Sydney, then travelling between Europe and Australia.[9]

Malouf's first novel, Johnno (1975), is the semi-autobiographical tale of a young man growing up in Brisbane during the Second World War.[10] Johnno engages in shoplifting and goes to brothels, which contrasts with his friend Dante's middle-class conservatism.[9] La Boite Theatre adapted it for stage in 2006.[11][12]

Malouf began writing full-time in 1977.[1]

An Imaginary Life (1978) is about the final years of Ovid.[9]

Malouf's 1982 novella about three acquaintances and their experience of the First World War was titled Fly Away Peter.[13]

His epic novel The Great World (1990) tells the story of two Australians and their relationship amid the turmoil of two World Wars, including imprisonment by the Japanese during World War II.[10]

His Booker Prize-shortlisted novel Remembering Babylon (1993) is set in northern Australia during the 1850s amid a community of English immigrant farmers (with one Scottish family) whose isolated existence is threatened by the arrival of a stranger, a young white man raised from boyhood by Indigenous Australians.[9]

Malouf has written several collections of short stories, and a play, Blood Relations (1988).[7] Australian critic Peter Craven described Malouf's 2007 short-story collection Every Move You Make as "as formidable and bewitching a collection of stories as you would be likely to find anywhere in the English-speaking world".[6] Craven went on to state that "No one else in this country has: the maintenance of tone, the expertness of prose, the easeful transition between lyrical and realist effects. The man is a master, a superb writer, and also (which is not the same thing) a completely sophisticated literary gent".[6] The Complete Stories appeared in 2007.[9]

Malouf has also written libretti for three operas (including Voss, an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Patrick White and first produced in the 1986 Adelaide Festival of Arts conducted by Stuart Challender), and Baa Baa Black Sheep (with music by Michael Berkeley), which combines a semi-autobiographical story by Rudyard Kipling with Kipling's Jungle Books.[7]

Malouf published his memoir, titled 12 Edmondstone Street, in 1985.[10]


Malouf delivered the 1998 Boyer Lectures on ABC Radio.[7]

Themes and subject matter[edit]

Malouf's work tends to be set in Australia, though "a European sensibility" is also present.[2]

His writing is characterised by a heightened sense of spatial relations, from the physical environments into which he takes his readers—whether within or outside built spaces, or in a natural landscape. He has likened each of his succession of novels to the discovery and exploration of a new room in a house, rather than part of an overarching development. "At a certain point, you begin to see what the connections are between things, and you begin to know what space it is you are exploring."[14] From his first novel Johnno onwards, his themes focused on "male identity and soul-searching".[6] He said that much of the male writing that preceded him "was about the world of action. I don't think that was ever an accurate description of men's lives".[6] He identified Patrick White as the writer who turned this around in Australian literature—that White's writing was the kind "that goes behind inarticulacy and or unwillingness to speak, writing that gives the language of feeling to people who don't have it themselves".[6]

Malouf also said that "I knew that the world around you is only uninteresting if you can't see what is really going on. The place you come from is always the most exotic place you'll ever encounter because it is the only place where you recognise how many secrets and mysteries there are in people's lives".[6] However, after nearly four decades of writing, he concluded that in older writers can sometimes be found "a fading of the intensity of the imagination, and ... of the interest in the tiny details of life and behaviour—you see [writers] getting a bit impatient with that."[15]

Awards and honours[edit]

As well as his numerous accolades for fiction, Malouf was awarded the Pascall Prize for Critical Writing in 1988.[16] In 2008, Malouf won the Australian Publishers Association's Lloyd O'Neil Award for outstanding service to the Australian book industry.[17] He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2008.[18] He is also an Honorary Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities.[1]

Selected bibliography[edit]



Short story collections[edit]

Poetry collections[edit]

  • Bicycle and Other Poems (1970)
  • Neighbours in a Thicket: Poems (1974)
  • Poems 1975–76 (1976)[7]
  • First Things Last (1980)[7]
  • Wild Lemons: Poems (1980)[7]
  • Selected Poems 1959–1989 (1992)[2]
  • Guide to the Perplexed and Other Poems (chapbook: Warners Bay, New South Wales: Picaro Press, 2007, 16pp)[40]
  • Typewriter Music (St Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 2007, 82pp)[41]
  • Revolving Days: Selected Poems (2008)[9]
  • Earth Hour. St Lucia, Queensland: University of Queensland Press. 2014. ISBN 978-0-7022-5257-0.[9]
  • An Open Book (2018), University of Queensland Press, ISBN 978-0-7022-6030-8


  • 12 Edmondstone St (memoir – 1985)[7]
  • "A Spirit of Play: The Making of Australian Consciousness", Boyer Lectures (1998)[42]
  • Moore, David (Summer 2000). "Growing up". Granta. 70. Photographs introduced by David Malouf: 105–131.
  • Made in England: Australia's British inheritance (Quarterly Essay, Black Inc – QE12 – November 2003)[43]
  • On Experience (Little Books on Big Themes – 2008)[9]
  • "The Happy Life" (Quarterly Essay, Black Inc – 2011)[9]
  • The Writing Life: Book 2 (2014) ISBN 978-1458766397




  1. ^ a b c d e f "Dr David Malouf AO". University of Queensland. 5 January 2016. Retrieved 3 October 2022.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Biography". eNotes. 6 May 2015. Retrieved 3 October 2022.
  3. ^ "Murakami Projected to Win the Nobel Prize". 2012. And the list goes on and on, including such contemporary literary greats as Kazuo Ishiguro, Ursula Le Guin, David Malouf, Salman Rushdie, A. S. Byatt, Milan Kundera, Julian Barnes, and John Ashbery...
  4. ^ "Malouf, David – Poet". Australian Poetry Library. Archived from the original on 26 February 2018. Retrieved 26 February 2018.
  5. ^ David Malouf at British Council: Literature
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Gilling, Tom, "David Malouf: Writer", The Weekend Australian Magazine, 2–3 August 2008, p. 28
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x "Australian Authors – David Malouf". middlemiss.org. Archived from the original on 22 July 2008.
  8. ^ Abblitt, Stephen (2008). "Journeys and Outings: a case study in David Malouf's closet". Australian Geographer. 39 (3): 293. Bibcode:2008AuGeo..39..293A. doi:10.1080/00049180802270499. S2CID 144753291.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p "David Malouf". British Council.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g "David Malouf Overview". Archived from the original on 21 December 2007.
  11. ^ Tompkins, Joanne (1 May 2008). "Adapting Australian Novels for the Stage: La Boite Theatre's Version of Last Drinks, Perfect Skin, and Johnno". Australian Literary Studies. 23 (3). This is not new for the theatre—Rosamond Siemon's The Mayne Inheritance was adapted by Errol O'Neill for the 2004 season, and several Nick Earls novels have been dramatised—but 2006 marks the first time that adaptations have dominated a season, with three of five plays based on novels of the same name. These vary significantly: David Malouf's 1975 Johnno, a classic of growing up in war-time Brisbane; Andrew McGahan's Last Drinks (2000), a recollection of the pre-Fitzgerald Inquiry era; and Perfect Skin (2000), another of Earls's comic novels.
  12. ^ "Johnno". La Boite Theatre. 2006.
  13. ^ "Fly Away Peter Analysis". Bartleby.com.
  14. ^ The Wordshed – David Malouf, in the House of Writing, Part 1 on YouTube, accessed 30 August 2009.
  15. ^ The Wordshed – David Malouf, in the House of Writing, Part 4 on YouTube, accessed 30 August 2009.
  16. ^ "Pascall Prize for Critical Writing". Geraldine Pascall Foundation. Archived from the original on 21 July 2008.
  17. ^ "Brooks wins Book of the Year award". The Sydney Morning Herald. 15 June 2008. Archived from the original on 16 May 2009.
  18. ^ "All Fellows". Royal Society of Literature. Archived from the original on 5 March 2010.
  19. ^ a b c "Neighbours in a Thicket: Poems". AustLit.
  20. ^ "Neighbours In A Thicket: Poems". 1 December 1980.
  21. ^ "ALS Gold Medal". Association for the Study of Australian Literature. Retrieved 3 October 2022.
  22. ^ "TDK Australian Audio Book Award entries for 1990". 1990. Retrieved 3 October 2022.
  23. ^ "Commonwealth Writers' Prize Regional Winners 1987–2007" (PDF). Commonwealth Foundation. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 October 2007.
  24. ^ "The Commonwealth Book Prize". Retrieved 3 October 2022.
  25. ^ "Previous award winners by category". Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature. Retrieved 3 October 2022.
  26. ^ Heinke, Jörg. "David Malouf: A Short Biography". University of the South Pacific. Archived from the original on 9 August 2007. David Malouf's novel Remembering Babylon was shortlisted for the Booker Price in 1993...
  27. ^ "Remembering Babylon". AustLit. Retrieved 3 October 2022.
  28. ^ "Remembering Babylon". AustLit. Retrieved 3 October 2022.
  29. ^ "1994 Los Angeles Times Book Prize — Fiction Winner and Nominees". Awards Archive. 25 March 2020. Retrieved 10 March 2022.
  30. ^ "Remembering Babylon". AustLit. Retrieved 3 October 2022.
  31. ^ "Prix Baudelaire (France)". AustLit.
  32. ^ "Neustadt Laureates: Past Laureates". World Literature Today. 7 January 2012. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  33. ^ Steger, Jason (22 November 2008). "Rich pickings for Malouf". The Age. Melbourne.
  34. ^ "Australia's Malouf wins literary prize". Dawn. Karachi. 23 November 2008.
  35. ^ Bligh, Anna (10 June 2009). "Premier Unveils Queensland's 150 Icons". Queensland Government. Archived from the original on 24 May 2017. Retrieved 24 May 2017.
  36. ^ "Past Winners" Archived 31 August 2013 at the Wayback Machine, 18 February 2013
  37. ^ "William Trevor makes an Impact" Archived 23 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine, The Irish Times, 12 April 2011.
  38. ^ "NSW Premier's Literary Awards" (PDF). SL Magazine. 8 (4): 35. Summer 2016.
  39. ^ "Australia Council honours leading artists with 2016 awards". Australia Council. Archived from the original on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  40. ^ "Guide to the Perplexed and Other Poems". AustLit.
  41. ^ Duwell, Martin (1 July 2007). "David Malouf: Typewriter Music". Australian Poetry Review.
  42. ^ "A Spirit of Play: The Making of Australian Consciousness". Radio National. 15 August 2006. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  43. ^ Made in England: Australia's British inheritance. Quarterly Essay. 7 November 2014.
  44. ^ "Subseries Subseries 7 – Jane Eyre [Libretto]". University of Queensland Library.

Further reading[edit]

  • Giffuni, Cathe. "The Prose of David Malouf", Australian & New Zealand Studies in Canada, No. 7, June 1992.
  • James, Clive. "A Memory called Malouf" New York Review, 21 December 2000.

External links[edit]