Calibre Prize Essay

In today’s episode, ABR looks back at the winner of the inaugural Calibre Essay Prize in 2007: ‘An Die Nachgeborenen: For Those Who Come After’ by Elisabeth Holdsworth. Holdsworth was born in the Netherlands in the years following World War II. Zeeland, where she grew up, was heavily bombed during the war and later flooded. Her poignant essay is a dialogue with the past, detailing her recent return to the Netherlands, her family’s vicissitudes and suffering during the war, and an unforgettable portrait of her conflicted mother.

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As the March and April evenings grew hotter, the streets of East Beirut were as empty as our calendars. The grumble of traffic had disappeared. Without the usual smokescreen, the nearby mountains and coastline were visible for weeks. Parks are scarce in Beirut and gardens are private, but this spring, vines and bougainvillea were clambering over the high walls and no one was trimming them. It was possible to take solitary walks and hear birdsong.

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The Calibre Essay Prize, now in its fourteenth year, goes on producing some of the finest longform essays from around the world. This year we received about 600 entries from 29 different countries. The overall prize went to Yves Rees for their essay 'Reading the Mess Backwards', which Yves reads in a recent podcast episode.

Placed second was 'The Dolorimeter' by Sydney-based poet and academic Kate Middleton. Kate's essay, which appears in the September issue of ABR, is a personal meditation on her experience with illness and dealing with the medical profession over many years.

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Sometime late morning it begins, a root of something that only as it grows do you recognise as pain. You have had coffee, as you do every morning, and now you feel the kind of heaviness that sends you to lie down. At home, the friend who is staying with you, whom you half invited and who may have misinterpreted your keenness for company, notes your early return and approves of your plan to retreat. For both of you it has been a year frantic with change and learning and emotion, and even if it is likely indulgent – so what, you’ve earned the right to call a morning off the books and instead take a heat pack and wish it were night all over again. She even microwaves the heat pack for you. You take it to bed where you think you will read or watch television or luxuriate in some way.

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The Calibre Essay Prize is one of the world's leading prizes for an original non-fiction essay. This year was the fourteenth time ABR has presented the prize, which is now worth a total of $7,500. The winner of this year's prize is Dr Yves Rees, whose essay is titled 'Reading the Mess Backwards'. Rees, who came out as transgender aged 31, describes their essay as 'a story of trans becoming that digs into the messiness of bodies, gender, and identity'. The full essay appears in the June-July issue of ABR.

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When I’m ten or so, my brother appears shirtless at the dinner table. Ever the eager disciple, I follow his example without a second thought. It is a sweltering January day, and our bodies are salt-crusted from the beach. Clothing seems cruel in these conditions. As my brother tucks into his schnitzel, tanned chest gleaming, I grow conscious that the mood has become strained. Across the table, my parents exchange glances. The midsummer cheer of recent evenings is on hold.

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Searing, mind-numbing grief at the loss of my partner of thirteen years was one thing, but such a breach of parking etiquette could not stand. The necessary adjustments were made, and the less serious business of grieving could begin. Later that day my sister weighed in. Her aid came in the form of fifteen ham-and-cheese sandwiches ...

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Nah Doongh was among the first generation of Aboriginal children who grew up in a conquered land. She was born around 1800 in the Country near present-day Kingswood, just south-east of Moorroo Morack, Penrith, and she lived until the late 1890s ...

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I swim at night, carving through water full of chlorine and tasting of mould, turning lap after lap before the pool closes down, while cells inside me hurry into being like bubbles under a running tap. The lifeguard stalks along beside the pool watching me. I know he’s trying to get me out, but I can’t stop swimming ...

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ABR News: Giveaways to Cat on a Hot Tin RoofSlaughterhouse Five, and The Chaperone; Story of the Month; submissions open for fortyfivedownstair's Emerging Artist Award 2019; the ABR 2020 European tour; Vicki Laveau-Harvie wins the $50,000 Stella Prize 2019; applications open for The Australian/Vogel’s Literary Award; and more!

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