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The Australia Council for the Arts mourns the loss of pivotal Australian novelist and short story writer Jessica Anderson, who passed away in Sydney on 6 July 2010, aged 93.

One of Australia’s most distinguished novelists and an Australia Council Emeritus writer, Jessica’s work has achieved international recognition and appears regularly on the schools and university syllabus.

Jessica was a graceful and emotional storyteller who delivered her works in true laconic style, exploring the social nuances of Australian life,’ said Denis Haskell, Chair of Australia Council’s Literature Board. ‘Her inspirational work is a huge influence to the current generation of Australian novelists.’

Born in Queensland in 1916, Jessica moved to Sydney at the age of eighteen, and aside from two years in London, she lived there all of her adult life. In her early career, Jessica published short stories under a pseudonym and wrote radio plays. Her work was first published in 1963 with her first novel An Ordinary Lunacy.

Sydney and Queensland were the major literary settings for her work, exploring the significance of place in shaping individual and national identity, whilst also exploring social class and economic circumstance.

An Ordinary Lunacy was followed by her celebrated crime novel The Last Man’s Head (1970); The Commandant (1975), a historical novel about the life of Captain Patrick Logan, the commandant of the Moreton Bay penal settlement, written from a feminist angle; Tirra Lirra by the River (1978) about an elderly woman who returns to her childhood home in Queensland after a long absence spent in Sydney and London; The Impersonators (1980), her examination of the Australian family; Taking Shelter (1989); One for the Wattle Birds (1994) and short stories including Stories from the Warm Zone and Sydney Stories (1987).

Jessica’s awards for her contribution to Australian literature were many. Amongst them, she received the Miles Franklin award twice. First in 1978 for Tirra Lirra by the River and in 1980 for The Impersonators – for which she also received the Christina Stead Prize for Fiction. Her Stories from the Warm Zone and Sydney Stories won her The Age Book of the Year in 1987.

The Australia Council extends its deep sympathy to Jessica Anderson’s family.



Brianna Roberts


(02) 9215 9030


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