June 19, 2009 / 5:45 AM / 10 years ago

Aussie author Winton wins top award for surfing novel

SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - Australian author Tim Winton has won the nation’s most prestigious literary prize for a record fourth time, taking the 2009 Miles Franklin award for his novel “Breath” that is centered around his passion — surfing.

Winton, 48, an lifelong surfer and environmentalist, won his first Miles Franklin award 25 years ago for “Shallows.” He also won the annual accolade in 1992 for “Cloudstreet” and in 2002 for “Dirt Music.”

Winton, who has twice been shortlisted for the Booker prize, said the Miles Franklin award has tried to do its part to stiffen the resolve and bolster the confidence of Australian writers and their readers.

The award, which comes with prize money of $42,000, recognizes novels which “present Australian life in any of its phases.”

“It’s endured to be a part of the global success our literary culture has enjoyed in recent years,” said Winton, who lives in Western Australia.

But Winton used a pre-recorded acceptance speech to blast an Australian proposal to cut territorial copyright after 12 months and allow cheaper books to be imported into Australia.

He said territorial copyright was the unheralded reason for the success of Australia’s literary world and scrapping this would ruin Australian writers’ livelihoods.

“Aussie rights are the bedrock of fair play. They’re the only hope we have of making a living here in our own country. But thanks to an agency of our own government, Aussie rights are now in grave jeopardy,” he said.

“Australians have outgrown colonialism, but the loss of territorial copyright will return us to a colonial relationship - in literary terms - to London and New York. What a squalid surrender. What a waste of cultural capital that would be.”

Winton is the only author to win the Miles Franklin award four times solo. Thea Astley won it four times but shared two of her wins with other authors.

Other writers shortlisted for the 2009 prize were Christos Tsoilkas for “The Slap,” screenwriter and playwright Louis Nowra for “Ice,” Murray Bail for “The Pages” and Richard Flanagan for “Wanting.”

The winner, “Breath,” is the story of two boys who will do anything for a dare and move into the world of surfing as they become teenagers, discovering a new world of danger as they believe they are immortal.

Writing by Belinda Goldsmith, Editing by Miral Fahmy

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