Calibre Essays

2008 Calibre Prize (Winner): 'Reaching One Thousand'

Rachel Robertson
Wednesday, 07 January 2015
I have often admired the mystical way of Pythagoras, and the secret magic of numbers.
Sir Thomas Browne, Religio Medici
The real world is not given to us, but put to us by way of a riddle.
Albert Einstein

In the kitchen of my mother’s houses there has always been a wooden stand with a ...

'An die Nachgeborenen: For those who come after'

Elisabeth Holdsworth
Wednesday, 07 January 2015

‘Welcome to the Netherlands!’ the sign says in Dutch and English. The Schipol customs official inspects my Australian passport. ‘Nederlands geboren,’ he sniffs. ‘Zo je komt terug.’ So you’ve come back, he adds, in a tone suggesting that I might have left something behind minutes ago, rather ...

The love song of Henry and Olga

Ann-Marie Priest
Monday, 28 April 2014

On an early spring evening in 1919, in a nearly empty cinema in the English seaside town of Lyme Regis, a slight, dark-haired figure slipped into a seat at the farthest edge of a row. From here, she would have a clear view of the profile of the youthful pianist who, sheltered behind a screen, accompanied the silent film. In white tie and tails, with her fair hair sl ...

2014 Calibre Prize (Winner): Unearthing the Past

Christine Piper
Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Christine Piper is the winner of the 2014 Calibre Prize for an Outstanding Essay, worth $5,000. In this powerful essay, she writes about Japanese biological weapons and wartime experiments on living human beings.

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At dusk in the Gévaudan

Tom Griffiths
Monday, 26 August 2013

Thirty years ago, I walked out of the railway station at Le Puy in the Auvergne region of the Massif Central of France, put most of my belongings in a locker at the station along with a note in schoolboy French explaining that I hoped to be back, and then walked over the horizon at sunset. I was embarked on my discovery of the Velay and the Gévaudan. < ...

Penguins on Horseback

Emma McEwin
Saturday, 25 May 2013

Wandering through the Mawson collection at the South Australian Museum one winter afternoon, I stare through the glass at the reconstruction of my great-grandfather, Douglas Mawson’s room in the hut, the sound of a moaning blizzard in my ears. The eerie sound of the wind coming through the installation, so familiar to Mawson and his men, is strangely allurin ...

'The Lonely Death' by Hayley Katzen

Hayley Katzen
Friday, 26 April 2013
Find Me Before I Die a Lonely Death.com

– Title of an album by electronic band Minuit

A human body exposed to summer heat can be reduced to bones in nine days. First the flies and maggots feast on the body’s fluids. As the tissues decay, they feed on the whole body through orifices and wounds. N ...

2013 Calibre Prize (Winner): Because it's Your Country

Martin Thomas
Sunday, 24 March 2013

The morgue in Gunbalanya holds no more than half a dozen corpses – and, as usual, it was full. When the Old Man died in the wet season of 2012, they had to fly him to Darwin, only to discover that the morgue there was already overcrowded. So they moved him again, this time to Katherine, where they put him on ice until the funeral. The hot climate notwithstan ...

Now They've Gone

Colin Nettelbeck
Wednesday, 24 October 2012
An imperfectly remembered life is a useless treachery.
Barbara Kingsolver, The Lacuna

When my American mother-in-law died, the world financial markets went into a tail-spin. Melba was her name; her own mother, who migrated from Italy to New England in the late nineteenth century, was an oper ...

2012 Calibre Prize (Winner): Body and Soul

Matt Rubinstein
Thursday, 30 August 2012

The most precious manuscript held by the Royal Irish Academy is RIA MS 12 R 33, a sixth-century book of psalms known as an Cathach (‘The Battler’), or the Psalter of St Columba. It is believed to be the oldest extant Irish psalter, the earliest example of Irish writing – and the world’s oldest pirate copy. According to tradition, St Columba secretly transcri ...

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