Book cover

Shortlist year: 2016

Shortlist category: Fiction

Published by: Island Magazine Inc.

Forty two-year old Kennard Stirling, son of a wealthy family, has spurned his inheritance in favour of a small town on the rural NSW coast, where he spends his days helping the elderly and needy members of the community. In his spare time he works on his own hobby—a project to rejuvenate various bush blocks, which are fertilised by the murdered remains of itinerants, drifters and economic losers that Stirling has judged not to offer anything to society.

The World Repair Video Game enters the articulate, philosophical, but ultimately unsettling reflections of Kennard Sterling, as he holds modern Australian culture to our gaze.

About the author

David Ireland

David Ireland AM was born in 1927 in south-western Sydney. His first novel, The Chantic Bird, was published in 1968. In the next decade he published five further novels, three of which won the Miles Franklin Award: The Unknown Industrial Prisoner (1971), The Glass Canoe (1976) and A Woman of the Future (1979).

David was made a member of the Order of Australia in 1981. In 1985 he received the Australian Literature Society Gold Medal for his novel Archimedes and the SeagullThe World Repair Video Game(2015) is Ireland’s first published novel in more than 18 years.

Judges’ comments

The publication of David Ireland’s The World Repair Video Game, his first novel to appear in almost 20 years, is something of a literary event. It confirms, above all, that the imaginative powers of this three-time Miles Franklin Award winner remain undiminished. The novel is framed in the form of a journal or diary written by 42-year old Kennard Stirling. Though born to a wealthy Sydney family, Stirling now chooses to spend his days living a modest and solitary existence, with his dog Jim, in a small coastal town in NSW. The novel covers just a few brief months in his life, recording his largely uneventful days spent planting trees, and helping out the town’s elderly residents—mowing their lawns, delivering meals, or ferrying them to medical appointments.

Occasionally, the darker side of Stirling’s character surfaces, as he pursues his unconventional scheme to regenerate the landscape of his bushland property on Big Hill. Then there is the voice of Pym, which habitually interjects itself into Stirling’s narrative, and which may be an element of Stirling’s consciousness, or may be something else entirely. David Ireland’s novel, shot through with philosophical asides, irony and dark humour, ultimately presents a bleak vision of our modern world. While Stirling’s response to the realities of economic rationalism, community breakdown and environmental degradation, is blatantly absurd, his strategies to repair the world ultimately present themselves as beyond good and evil. In a novel largely devoid of conventional character and storytelling, David Ireland has given us a complex, challenging and deeply committed work.