Episode 4: Christos Tsiolkas

Episode 4: Alexis Wright in conversation with Christos Tsiolkas

When Christos Tsiolkas was a child, his father, knowing that his son loved to read, would proudly pick up two paperbacks for him from a bookshop on Bridge Road every payday. His picks were eclectic – unable to read the English titles, he would grab everything from Dickens to Mills and Boon – but they fuelled a broad and voracious appetite for books in the young Christos. When asked to consider how he became the writer he is today, the answer comes easily: “by being a reader”.

In the fourth instalment of the Signposts series, Alexis Wright sits down with Christos Tsiolkas to talk about family, doubt, storytelling, looking for God in low places, and the thrill of escaping from the world to fully immerse yourself in research for a new novel. The episode concludes with a reading from Tsiolkas’ award-winning 2019 novel, Damascus.

Christos Tsiolkas is a Melbourne-based playwright, essayist, film critic, and award-winning author of six novels, and the short story collection Merciless Gods. He also co-authored the dialogue Jump Cuts: An Autobiography with Sasha Soldatow, and the monograph On Patrick White for the Writers on Writers series.

His works have been adapted to both the big and small screens. His debut novel Loaded (1995) was made into the feature film Head-On directed by Ana Kokkinos and starring Alex Dimitriades. His third novel Dead Europe, which won The Age Book of the Year fiction award, was also adapted for cinema by Tony Krawitz.

His 2008 novel The Slap is possibly his best known, taking as its starting point a suburban barbecue in which a man slaps someone else’s child, and exploring the effects it has on the families who witnessed it. The book won the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize and was made into an ABC mini-series, and was then adapted for an American audience into a mini-series starring Peter Sarsgaard, Uma Thurman and Thandie Newton. Barracuda (2013) was also adapted as a mini-series, directed by Robert Connelly.

Christos has been shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award, longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and been awarded the Australian Literary Society Gold Medal. His most recent novel, Damascus, won the 2020 Victorian Premier’s Prize for Fiction. Christos’s work has been published extensively overseas as well as in Australia, and The Slap has been translated into 22 other languages.

Christos is also well known for his advocacy on queer issues and on behalf of the migrant and refugee community, specifically through his journalism. He has been a Cultural Ambassador for the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre since 2013 and is also a patron of Writers Victoria.

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