Shortlist year: 2016

Shortlist category: Fiction

Published by: Penguin


Aldo Benjamin, relentlessly unlucky in every aspect of life, has always faced the future with despair and optimism in equal measure. His latest misfortune, though, may finally have brought him undone. There's still hope, but not for Aldo. 

His mate Liam hasn't been doing much better—a failed writer with a rocky marriage and a dangerous job he never wanted—until he finds inspiration in Aldo's exponential disaster. What begins as an attempt to document these improbable but inevitable experiences becomes a profound exploration of fate, fear and friendship.

About the author

Steve Toltz

Steve Toltz was born in Sydney and has lived in several different countries. He currently lives in New York with his French-born wife, artist Marie Peter-Toltz and their three-year-old son. His first novel, A Fraction of the Whole, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Guardian First Book Award. 

Judges’ comments

Quicksand, Steve Toltz's second novel, is a tour de force of one liners and gags. At its heart is a dialogue between Liam, a cop with writer’s block, and his subject, Aldo, the wheelchair-bound ex-criminal. A 21st century black comedy, reminiscent of a Beckett play, this novel is a catalogue of scams, failed marriages, broken bodies, prison rapes, botched suicides and bad jokes. Toltz's main characters suffer from verboseness, but words are their way of making sense of themselves and the world they must endure. It is an argument for life and art, when death seems far more sensible. Quicksand is structurally inventive. It is exhausting at times, ranging across extended excerpts from Liam’s incomplete novel, trial documents, transcripts from police interviews and more or less significant essays on the importance of creativity. This is a courageous novel, filled with energy and panache.