UNSW Canberra Writer-in-Residence launches new novel

8.05.19

Author Nigel Featherstone remembers his time as Writer-in-Residence at UNSW Canberra fondly, recalling it as the start of what would become years of historical and creative investigation.

“I wanted to experience what it would be like to write a manuscript for a novel in a university environment so after UNSW Canberra kindly provided me with a private working space in the Academy Library I spent the first six weeks immersed in war. I did a lot of reading: fiction, non-fiction, poetry.”

“Once I felt that I’d read just enough and had a rough idea of the story I wanted to tell, I opened what would turn out to the first of six Spirax notebooks and put pen to paper. I left the residency with the scratchy, hand-written first draft of what would become Bodies of Men.

Nigel took up residency at UNSW Canberra in 2013 with an aim to research different expressions of masculinity under military pressure, expressions that may have become buried under the weight of ‘official history’.

Out of that time immersed at the Academy Library at the University came the concept for his latest novel, Bodies of Men, a story of two young Sydney men called James Kelly and William Marsh, childhood friends who are reunited in the trenches of Egypt in 1941.

“It [the novel] very much came from the research. While I read the material, I made notes. Soon James and William emerged, as did the supporting cast. And then came their various predicaments. So much of what is in the novel has been inspired by what I found on the historical record, from scholarly material to memoirs, diaries, hand-held movie footage, photographs, visual art,” said Nigel.

In his own words Nigel says the novel is about courage - how during a time of war courage isn’t necessarily a matter of physical violence, refuge - how we all have a responsibility to care for others and love – how love expresses itself in many ways, some of which have been hidden by a politicised view of military history.

 “Bodies of Men simply would not exist if I hadn’t been able to spend those three months at UNSW Canberra. The story in Bodies of Men is mine, but it is a much richer experience for the time I spent on campus,” he said.

Bodies of Men is out now from Hachette Australia.

Bodies of Men will be launched in Canberra at 6pm on Thursday 16 May 2019 at The Street Theatre, 15 Childers Street, City West. Special guests: Robyn Cadwallader and CJ Bowerbird. All welcome. To RSVP please email publicity@hachette.com.au

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