Robert Dessaix is the recipient of the 2022 Australia Council Award for Lifetime Achievement in Literature, which acknowledges the achievements of eminent literary writers who have made an outstanding and sustained contribution to Australian literature.
Robert Dessaix’s list of publications, the number of books he sells, and the numbers of people who queue for, and crowd into auditoriums to hear him speak, is testimony to the avidness with which readers love and admire both his work, and his mind and personality. That he is a literary writer, and that he has sustained enormous readership and audience numbers with each successive new book since 1994 when A Mother’s Disgrace was published, is evidence of a very particular talent.
Robert’s achievements in the field of queer literature merit special attention. He reviewed queer books and interviewed queer writers as a matter of course in his programs for ‘Books and Writing’. That was still a rarity in the 1980s and early 90s, when the routine media treatment of queerness oscillated between tragedy and scandal. In 1993 Robert also compiled the OUP Anthology of Australian Gay and Lesbian Writing, the first of its kind in local publishing. It included work by an array of Australian writers, both queer and straight, including Elizabeth Jolley, Beverley Farmer, Dorothy Porter, Peter Rose and Helen Garner. Its publication opened up conversations about queer writing and the representation of queerness in Australia.
Books and Writing was ground-breaking in other ways. It embraced queer writers/ writing/ and themes at a time when homosexuality was generally treated by the media as scandalous and sensational. He achieved the unthinkable of treating the subject as “just another subject”. He writes:
“At a more profound level, I hope that some of my readers and listeners felt that my presence in the literary world made it clear that there were many acceptable varieties of Australian male, not just the stereotypical ones, as had been the case when I was a youngster.”
Robert Dessaix’s contribution to Australian literature and culture has been extraordinary. As Andrew Reimer from the Sydney Morning Herald wrote: ‘Dessaix’s voice and literary personality are unique in contemporary Australian letters.’
To celebrate his lifetime achievement, Brio Books is proud to have published his latest work, Abracadabra. A collection of ideas, ruminations and stories he's told captivated audiences but has never previously captured in print.