BENANG from the heart – Interview with the author Kim Scott

25 years ago, BENANG from the heart took the publishing world by storm and made Kim Scott, the author, a household name.

Kim Scott. Credit Fremantle Shipping News

His novel swept the awards season, winning the Western Australian Premier’s Book Award Fiction Prize in 1999, the esteemed Miles Franklin Award in 2000, and the Kate Challis RAKA Award in 2001, as well being shortlisted for the Queensland Premier’s Literary Award in 2000, and the Tasmania Pacific Literary Award in 2001, and longlisted for the Dublin IMPAC Literary Award in 2000.

BENANG tells the story of Harley, a man of Nyoongar ancestry, who finds himself at a difficult point in the history of his country, family and self. As the apparently successful outcome of his white grandfather’s enthusiastic attempts to isolate and breed the ‘first white man born’, he wants to be a failure. But would such failure mean his Nyoongar ancestors could label him a success? And how can the attempted genocide represented by his family history be told?

The praise for the novel has been lavish: ‘Benang is brilliant. It is a mature, complex, sweeping historical novel which will remind people of Rushdie, Carey and Grenville at their best. This is an absolute page turner and in the end we are left with a sense of joy and gratitude that such stories are still possible – that the silence has been broken.’ Sydney Morning Herald.

‘… Benang soars to the level of superb storytelling with an emotional punch to the guts, not unlike Toni Morrison’s Beloved.’ Weekend Australian.

‘Haunting and poignant, Benang pierces the heart even as it seeks to lance the savage bleeding of the wounds of white settlement in Australia.’ Canberra Times.

BENANG from the heart has just been reprinted by Fremantle Press in recognition of the seminal role it has played in Indigenous literature in Australia. The 25th Anniversary Edition contains a generous Foreword by Philip Morrissey and a wonderful Preface by Kim Scott.

Kim Scott kindly agreed to meet with our Editor, Michael Barker, to discuss the literary phenomenon that is BENANG from the heart, what has happened in Australia over the past 25 years, the failure of the Yes vote on The Voice, and so much more besides.


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Here’s our podcast interview. You won’t want to miss it!