History of the award
The Australian/Vogel's Literary Award is Australia's richest and most prestigious award for an unpublished manuscript and has launched the careers of some of its most successful writers, including Tim Winton, Kate Grenville, Gillian Mears, Brian Castro, Mandy Sayer and Andrew McGahan. Vogel-winning authors have gone on to win or be shortlisted for other major awards, such as the Miles Franklin Award, the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Booker Prize.
The award began its remarkable life in early 1980 when Niels Stevns, the owner of Vogel bread in Australia, approached the literary editor of The Australian, Peter Ward, about collaborating on a cultural prize.
As a young man in his early twenties, Niels Stevns had come to Australia from Denmark. He had been in his new country for several years when he decided to accompany a sick relative to Switzerland to meet the renowned Swiss naturopath Dr Vogel. This significant meeting led to the establishment of Vogels bread in Australia and to Stevns' successful and rewarding career. His approach to The Australian in 1980 was inspired by gratitude to his adopted land—he wanted to give something back to the nation which had made possible his flourishing business. Literature and classical music were his two great passions, and after much discussion he decided on a literary award, with the emphasis on providing an opportunity for young writers.
Following Stevns' call, Peter Ward rang Patrick Gallagher, Allen & Unwin's Managing Director, which led to the successful collaboration between Vogel's, The Australian and Allen & Unwin - and to the birth of The Australian/Vogel's Literary Award, with a prize of $10,000 provided by Vogels for the best manuscript submitted by an author under 30. The Australian undertook to promote the award and Allen & Unwin guaranteed to publish the winning manuscript. In 1982 the age limit of the Award was increased to 35 and the prize money was subsequently increased to $15,000. In 1998 the prize money was further increased to $18,000, in 1999 it increased to $19,000, and it is currently $20,000.
In 1997 the traditional number of three judges was increased to four, in response to the ever-growing number of manuscripts submitted to the Award. The judges, who generally serve a three-year term, are selected from among prominent academics, critics and writers and have included Nancy Keesing, Robert Drewe, Helen Garner, Tom Keneally, Marele Day, Andrea Stretton, Barry Oakley, Geoffrey Dutton, Andrew Reimer, Jill Kitson, Alex Buzo, Cate Kennedy and Geordie Williamson.
Alan Stevns, Niel's son, is now the steward of The Australian/Vogel's Literary Award, which he sees as a lasting memorial to his father.
Eleven Seasons by Paul D Carter
'[Eleven Seasons'] account of a fatherless boy growing to manhood in suburban Melbourne is melancholy and occasionally brutal. That we come to care for a man whose progress is stumbling and whose actions are sometimes despicable is a tribute to Carter's empathetic powers.'
Geordie Williamson, The Weekend Australian
'Eleven Seasons is 11 fast-flowing chapters, a river sometimes turbulent, sometimes smooth, but always engaging. It's Australian and it's real.'
Harry Brumpton, Courier-Mail
'Carter captures the tensions of adolescence with accuracy.'
Novel of the Week, The Week, 1/6/2012
'Paul D. Carter hasn't played football since he was a child, but the spirit of hte game pulses across almost every page of his debut novel, Eleven Seasons... Carter's story joins an honour roll studded with literary heavyweights such as Time Winton and Kate Grenville.'
Melbourne Times Weekly
The Roving Party by Rohan Wilson
'This is a splendid first novel that succeeds admirably where others have sometimes come to grief. The Roving Party is distinguished by Wilson's tactful and restrained account of a brutal episode in the history of the conflict between European newcomers and the original inhabitants of Van Diemen's Land ... Wilson builds up a picture of a world out of joint, where the old ways have decayed. There is no preaching, no appeal to emotions or reliance on sensationalism. With a cool, Flaubert-like detachment,Wilson allows things to speak for themselves. But there is, of course, careful selectivity, an art that conceals its artfulness, at work here.' The Sydney Morning Herald
'...an eloquence and intensity ... (The Roving Party) impelled the judges' attentions like no other book ... Wilson ...is a novelist born ... it is the language with which the author relates events that arrests the reader most. It is self-consciously archaic, comma-wary,a combination of fragments and rolling sentences that combine gruesome verisimilitude with hallucinatory flights. It immediately recalls the prose of that master of southern gothic, Cormac McCarthy. Yet the locale and the characters are so different it does not feel like pastiche. The style is renewed by the fresh world it is obliged to describe, and in doing so furnishes passages of graven elegance.' The Australian
Night Street by Kristel Thornell
'Kristel Thornell's imagining of Clarice Beckett's life is elegant, potent and picturesque.' - Herald Sun
'Nothing much perhaps happens in the narrative, except a life devoted to painting – but that is enough. A book of beauty.' - Sunday Age
'Whether or not you are familiar with the work of Clarice Beckett, this sensitive novel about that talented young painter will captivate... Night Street is a beautifully paced read, and as atmospheric as a Clarice Beckett landscape.' - Bookseller & Publisher
Utopian Man by Lisa Lang
'Utopian Man is wonderfully rich in its narrative design and Lang does a brilliant job of returning Edward to life. If his enterprise ever wavers on the carnivalesque, it is tempered by Lang's subtle restraint, her language bright and affecting … This is a warm and intelligent novel, full of infective joy. It should come with a warning: reading this book may inspire you to do great things with your life.' - Australian Literary Review
'Lang draws skilfully on the conventions of the popular romance to play out Cole's wonderful contradictions, pitting reason against the imagination, light against dark and the goodness of man against the corruptive influence of self-interest. The work is a marvellous achievement.' - Weekend Australian
Document Z by Andrew Croome
'...a story so gripping...that everyone will want to devour it. And so they should, both for its human interest and for its reminder of one of the most notorious episodes in our national history.' - Australian Book Review
'Croome negotiates the complexities of the troubled times and brings a particularly humane perspective to a story that continues to hold the popular imagination.' - Weekend Australian
I Dream of Magda by Stefan Laszczuk
'The Magda Szubanski dream sequences are surreal, beautiful, literary… George's first person narration is honest, straightforward, often hilariously apt, and all too human… This is an absorbing novel and obviously well deserved its Vogel win. It should appeal to most sensibilities, old and young.' – Australian Bookseller & Publisher
The River Baptists by Belinda Castles
'A beautifully crafted sense of place and hypnotically perfect prose pull the reader in like the coming tide.' - Good Reading
'Castles builds tension to an almost unbearable level with lives at risk... I found it impossible not to read the novel in one sitting. Castles is a worthy winner of the 2006 Vogel Literary Award.' - The Courier Mail
Tuvalu by Andrew O'Connor
'What a novel it is, full of illusion, teasing us with its inconclusiveness, spinning bleak, intense humour from the straw of failed and doomed relationships... this novel is thoroughly enchanting. O'Connor guides us through Noah's misadventures with admirable deftness, bringing us to an ending that is a triumph of understated drama.' - Weekend Australian
Road Story by Julienne Van Loon
'With Road Story... Julienne Van Loon shows she is an accomplished author with much to offer.' - The Australian
'Road Story is rich in detail, and Van Look beautifully captures the vast emptiness of the outback... Road Story is clearly the work of a talented writer.' - Canberra Times
The Alphabet of Light and Dark by Danielle Wood
'An impressive debut .. With The Alphabet of Light and Dark , Wood's assured sense of place and her confidence with language single her novel out as a distinctively mature work ... translucent prose.' - The Sunday Age
Skins by Sarah Hay
'Skins is an excellent first novel, tightly and evenly constructed, with an accessible, unobtrusive and unforced style' - Australian Bookseller & Publisher
'Sarah Hay's Skins [is] compelling... a powerful evocation of a time and place rarely featured in Australian literary fiction' - Australian Book Review
'Skins is an entertaining, absorbing, instructive novel, worthy of its 2001 Vogel Award' - Sydney Morning Herald
Love and Vertigo by Hsu-Ming Teo
'Well written, sharply observed, perceptive. Strong on characterisation and a sense of place'
- Garry Disher
Lilian's Story by Kate Grenville
'Kate Grenville has transformed an Australian myth into a dazzling fiction of universal appeal. It is a pleasure to be able to praise a true novelist.' - Patrick White
'A very moving and sometimes very funny novel... The surprises and flourishes are in the evocative and poetic writing of the episodes every one of which reveals some detail of human frailness... - Elizabeth Jolley
Praise by Andrew McGahan
'McGahan's book is a bracing slap in the face to conventional platitudes and hypocrisies.' - Weekend Australian
'Praise is one of those books that takes a hefty bite out of a piece of subject matter, chews it to a pulp and then spits it out.' - Peter Craven