Elliot Perlman

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Elliot Perlman (born 7 May 1964) is an Australian author and barrister. He has written four novels (Three Dollars, Seven Types of Ambiguity, The Street Sweeper and Maybe the Horse Will Talk), one short story collection (The Reasons I Won't Be Coming) and a book for children.


Perlman is the son of second-generation Jewish Australians of East European descent.[1] He studied law at Monash University in Melbourne, graduating in 1989.[2] 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. He lives in Melbourne.[3][4]

Writing career[edit]

In 1994 he won The Age Short Story Award for "The Reasons I Won't Be Coming",[5] 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[3][6] and the Betty Trask Prize.[7] His second novel, Seven Types of Ambiguity, was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award, Australia's most prestigious literary award, in 2004.[8] Perlman's third novel, The Street Sweeper, was published in 2011. In an interview in 2001 he named Graham Greene as one of the writers who inspire him, describing Greene as "a master of beautifully crisp, clean and spare prose".[9] He has been called a post-grunge lit writer,[by whom?] a reference to his works being written following the 1990s genre of grunge lit.

Themes and style[edit]

His work "condemns the economic rationalism that destroys the humanity of ordinary people when they are confronted with unemployment and poverty."[10] 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."[9] 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."[9] He describes himself, in fact, as being interested in "the essence of humanity" and argued that exploring this often means touching on political issues.[9] 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."[9]


His novel Three Dollars was produced as a film in 2005. It was directed by Robert Connolly, and starred David Wenham and Frances O'Connor. Perlman and Connolly jointly adapted the novel.

A six-part series based on Seven Types of Ambiguity was screened on ABC Television in 2017.

Awards and nominations[edit]



Short story collection[edit]

  • The Reasons I Won't Be Coming (1999)

For children[edit]

  • The Adventures of Catvinkle, illustrated by Laura Stitzel (2018)
  • Catvinkle and the Missing Tulips, illustrated by Laura Stitzel (2020)

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "Meet the writers: Elliot Perlman"
  2. ^ Monash Law Matters 2005/06
  3. ^ a b "Elliot J PERLMAN". barristers.com.au/. Archived from the original on 2 September 2007. Retrieved 25 November 2008.
  4. ^ "Limmud-Oz 2008 – Festival of Jewish Learning & Culture – Elliot Perlman". shalom.edu.au/. Shalom Institute. 14 September 2003. Archived from the original on 21 July 2008. Retrieved 25 November 2008.
  5. ^ "Books and Writing – John Mortimer & Elliot Perlman". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 14 September 2003. Retrieved 25 November 2008.
  6. ^ "Three Dollars – Elliot Perlman – 1998". middlemiss.org. Retrieved 25 November 2008.
  7. ^ Betty Trask prize Archived 9 May 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ "Announcing the 2004 Miles Franklin Literary Award Winner" Archived 22 July 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ a b c d e Byrne, Madeleine (2001), "The world is closing in: an interview with Elliot Perlman", Antipodes, 15 (1): 10–12
  10. ^ Perlman, Elliot, austlit.edu.au
  11. ^ "'Missing Marvin' wins Children's Peace Literature Award". Books+Publishing. 12 November 2019. Retrieved 10 August 2020.