Shortlist year: 2017

Shortlist category: Non-fiction

Published by: Text Publishing

Quicksilver begins in contemplation of a lizard deep in the heart of the outback but quickly moves to the Russia of Tolstoy and Gorky, and on to other lands and times, bringing into play universal questions about the essential nature of the human condition.

Rothwell’s chief subject is always the inland: the mystic Kurangara cult that flourished in the Kimberley; the story of the Western Desert artists; and the landscape word-portraits by the great biographer of nature Eric Rolls.

Quicksilver masterfully takes us in search of the sacred through place and time, in an enchanting reverie of calm wondering.

About the author

Nicolas Rothwell

Nicolas Rothwell is the award-winning author of BelomorHeaven & EarthWings of the Kite-HawkAnother CountryThe Red Highway and Journeys to the Interior. He is a senior writer for the Australian.

Judges’ comments

This is an ambitious book, both in form and content, but one the judges believe has the power to change Australians’ understanding of their land and history.

Nicolas Rothwell uses a form – the essay – which is not always easy to carry off but which here amplifies his efforts to describe the nuances of our national history and culture.

Rothwell has created a work of art and an act of reconciliation through his stories of landscape, memory and meaning. His work is elegant and complex and he skillfully links ideas, events and people across the hemispheres, making surprising and rich connections between the ancient lands of Australia and Europe and beyond.

Rothwell’s rendering of landscape and place is deeply sensual and evocative. He encourages us to think outside the usual metropolitan focus. He demands our attention be given to an Australian landscape both familiar and alien and one with which he deeply connects.

Rothwell is a practiced and erudite observer and Quicksilver is a book that showcases his breadth of reading and reflection on issues of place and identity.

The judges described this book as contemporary in its outlook - a book of our time – but one, which will endure.