Guest 2012.

Tony Birch [ Australia ]

Tony Birch, actually Anthony Keith Birch, grew up in Melbourne. He was expelled from several schools and, therefore, graduated later. Since he was enthusiastic about literature, he decided to study at the University of Melbourne, where he has been a lecturer himself for more than ten years, teaching Creative Writing. In 2004, he obtained his doctorate in History. His thesis had the title »›Framing Fitzroy‹: contesting and (de)constructing place and identity in a Melbourne suburb« and dealt with the urban history of the first borough of the Australian metropolis. For this work he was awarded the University Chancellor’s Prize. Birch also graduated in the M.A. course in Creative Writing, in which he presented his text »The Witness« (1998). Birch’s literary and academic interest is focused on short stories and »creative non-fiction«.

His first collection of short stories »Shadowboxing« (2006) consists of ten related stories about a boy in the Fitzroy neighbourhood in the 1960s. Birch was a gifted boxer himself when he was young. The book thus includes autobiographical references, describes the tragic conflicts within a family and paints a picture of urban decay. His debut is convincing because of its simple, non-pretentious prose in the description of how his hero comes to maturity. In »Father’s Day« (2009), he once again focuses on the themes of domestic violence, alienation, childhood and parenthood from alternating perspectives. Ironically enough, these two works have meanwhile become part of the curriculum of the public high schools that once expelled him. Two of his daughters are students at these schools today. His first novel »Blood« appeared in 2011, and met the acclaim of the critics. Inspired by a radio reportage about children who are left alone after one of their parents has been imprisoned, Birch first wrote a short story. He was then fascinated by the characters and the oppressive situation, and turned it into a novel about the odyssey of two children from one family into the Outback. »Blood« was shortlisted for the renowned Australian Miles Franklin Literary Award. His short stories have been published by numerous literary magazines and anthologies, including »Overland«, »Antithesis«, »Heat«, »The Sleepers Almanac«, »Mānoa Journal« and »The Best Australian Stories«.

In addition to his activity as a writer and lecturer, Birch is a curator and has co-operated with photographers and artists, for example for the book and exhibition project »Reversing the Negative: A Portrait of Aboriginal Victoria« (2000). Birch lives in Melbourne.

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