22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Tony Birch

Portrait Tony Birch
© Hartwig Klappert

Tony Birch grew up in Melbourne. Expelled from several schools as an adolescent, he did not graduate until later. Enthusiastic about literature, he decided to study at the University of Melbourne, where he has now been teaching courses in creative writing at the School of Culture and Communication for more than ten years. In 2004, he gained his doctor title in History with the dissertation »Framing Fitzroy‹: contesting and (de)constructing place and identity in a Melbourne suburb«, in which he takes a closer look at the urban history of the Australian metropolis’s first district; the work earned him the university’s Chancellor’s Prize. Before that, he completed a Master’s degree in Creative Writing with his text »The Witness« (1998).

Birch’s literary and academic interest focuses on the genres »short story« and so-called »creative nonfiction«. His first collection of short stories, »Shadowboxing« (2006) consists of ten interrelated tales centered on a boy in the district of Fitzroy in the 1960s. Birch, himself a good boxer when he was young, also uses autobiographical elements, describes the tragic conflicts within a family, and paints a picture of urban decay. His debut stands out for to its no-frills, unpretentious prose with which he follows the main character’s coming of age. In »Father’s Day« (2009), he once again writes about subjects like domestic violence, alienation, childhood, and parenthood, narrated from different perspectives. These two books have ironically found their way onto the curriculum of the high schools from which he was once expelled. His first novel »Blood« (2011) was received enthusiastically by the critics and was shortlisted for the renowned Australian Miles Franklin Literary Award. Inspired by a radio report about children who are left to their own devices after a parent is sent to jail, Birch first wrote a short story with the same title and then expanded it to make it an odyssey of two siblings through the Outback. His most recent volume of stories, »The Promise« (2014), once again demonstrates Birch’s extraordinary ear for the nuances of local dialects. The heroes of these short stories make up an eccentric ensemble of vagabonds, petty criminals, émigrés, and drinkers who face the adversities of everyday life in different ways.

Birch’s short stories have appeared in literary magazines and anthologies, including »Overland«, »Mānoa Journal«, and »The Best Australian Stories«. He also works as a curator now and again, for example, for the book and exhibition project »Reversing the Negative. A Portrait of Aboriginal Victoria« (2000). Tony Birch lives in Melbourne.