David Jack

The ABR Podcast 

Released every Thursday, the ABR podcast features our finest reviews, poetry, fiction, interviews, and commentary.

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Jolley Prize Shortlisted Authors

Episode #114

2022 ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize

Listen to the three shortlisted authors read their stories

In this year’s ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story prize, we received more than 1,300 entries from thirty-six different countries, a testament to ongoing international interest in the Jolley Prize and ABR. Writers explored themes and topics including the pandemic, climate change, grief, desire, parenthood, and community. In this week’s podcast, the three finalists read their shortlisted stories: ‘Dog Park’ by Nina Cullen, ‘Natural Wonder’ by Tracy Ellis, and ‘Whale Fall’ by C.J. Garrow. They are briefly introduced by Jolley Prize judge and ABR Deputy Editor, Amy Baillieu. A more detailed judges’ report on the three shortlisted stories is available on our website, along with the details of the fourteen longlisted stories.


The stories also appear in our August issue, now on sale. We will announce the overall winner of the Jolley Prize at a special online event this Thursday, 11 August at 6pm Melbourne time. All are welcome to this free event, but please register with This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. We look forward to seeing you there!




Recent episodes:

Freud once argued that the pleasure of shit is the first thing we learn to renounce on the way to becoming civilised. For Freud, the true universalising substance was soap; for Annabel L. Kim it is shit; and French literature is ‘full of shit’, both literally and figuratively, from Rabelais’s ‘excremental masterpieces’ Pantagruel and Gargantua and the Marquis de Sade’s The 120 Days of Sodom through the latent faecality of the nineteenth-century realists to the canonical writers of French modernity.

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Interventions 2020 by Michel Houellebecq, translated by Andrew Brown

July 2022, no. 444

Michel Houellebecq has never been one to hide his light under a bushel. Since the publication of his second and best-known novel, Atomised, in 1998 (the same year some of the pieces included in Interventions 2020 were originally published in French), Houellebecq has established himself as the enfant terrible of French letters, primarily through his provocative and at times incendiary remarks. Indeed, there is a certain expectation that Houellebecq will live up to his reputation, something he notes in his reflections on paedophilia: ‘Through the wording of your questions, I feel I am subtly being asked to say something politically incorrect.’ Rarely does he disappoint.

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The Inseparables by Simone de Beauvoir, translated by Lauren Elkin

December 2021, no. 438

‘I loathe romans à clef as much as I loathe fictionalised biographies,’ wrote Simone de Beauvoir (1908–76). For this reason, the novel and the memoir were her preferred genres, even though the boundaries between the two were frequently blurred, a distinction that Beauvoir insisted must be maintained: fiction has ‘only very dubious connections with truth’. While Beauvoir was adamant that her fictional women protagonists are ‘not her’ in any recognisable sense, she conceded that characters may resemble living models. The most famous example is Lewis in The Mandarins (1954), loosely based on Nelson Algren, the American writer and Beauvoir’s lover for some twenty years. It may be loose, but the resemblance was enough for Algren to take his revenge by panning subsequent American editions of Beauvoir’s work. Even memoir has a very particular relationship to reality for Beauvoir. The writer of the memoir is not the same as the subject: the future, she notes in Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter (1958), ‘would turn me into another being, someone who would still be, and yet no longer seem, myself’.

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Italian political philosopher Giorgio Agamben’s diagnosis of the condition of ‘bare life’ has assumed a new significance during the coronavirus outbreak. A new book, Where Are We Now? The epidemic as politics, collects some of Agamben’s most thought-provoking commentary on the politics of state responses to Covid-19. In today’s episode, David Jack reads his October article ‘Bare life and health terror’, in which he applies some of Agamben’s key insights to Australia, arguing that the philosopher’s willingness to speak up for the preservation of the foundations of civic life offers a tonic to the atmosphere of alarmism and the new medically endorsed state of exception.

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In the allegory of the cave, Plato hypothesised the birth of the philosopher as one who emerged from the darkness of illusion into the light of truth. In the dark days of the Covid-19 pandemic, philosophers are finding a platform, mostly in the press, indicative perhaps that we need an interpretation of what is happening around us beyond that offered by the media and daily conferences. As with Plato’s philosopher, what they have brought back is not necessarily what we wanted to hear, and some have been threatened with pariah-like status for views that sometimes run counter to the prescribed consensus. This was certainly the case with Italian political philosopher Giorgio Agamben.

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Serotonin by Michel Houellebecq, translated by Shaun Whiteside

December 2019, no. 417

Serotonin is Michel Houellebecq’s eighth novel and appears four years after the scandalous and critically successful Submission (2015), a dystopian novel that depicts France under sharia law. In Serotonin, we are again presented with the standard Houellebecquian narrator: white, middle-aged, and middle class, seemingly in the throes of some mid-life crisis of a predominantly – but not exclusively – sexual nature.

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