Shortlist year: 2011

Shortlist category: Fiction

Published by: Allen & Unwin

A nameless woman lies horribly scarred and close to death in an Asylum deep in the North African desert.

As the wind calls up a deadly sandstorm, the inhabitants of the Asylum discover they are linked by a diary written by the poet Rimbaud, who in 1890 also confronted the implacable power of the desert. Over the next one hundred and twenty years, everyone who sees the diary will want it. Most will do anything to possess it.

Only the woman, whose dark past is entwined with those who would possess the diary at any cost, sees the true worth of the book. As she surrenders to the transformative power of the desert, only she understands how it exalts the secrets mapped on the diary's precious pages.

About the author

Roberta Lowing

Roberta Lowing was Fairfax Media/The Sun-Herald's film and video critic for twenty-three years and covered the Cannes and Venice Film Festivals for ten years, interviewing directors and actors and writing travel stories. In the late 1990s, she produced and directed 80 episodes of the environmental show Green Seen, which she co-founded, for the community television station Channel 31. From 2006 until 2010, she ran the PoetryUnLimitedPress Readings in Sydney. Roberta recently completed her Master of Letters at the University of Sydney. Her poetry has appeared in literary journals such as MeanjinBlue Dog and Overland. Roberta's first collection of poetry, Ruin, was published in 2010 by Interactive Press. Fairfax Books has also published a collection of Roberta's reviews from the The Sun-Herald and The Sunday Age.