Though only 32, Tim Winton is already one of Australia's most celebrated writers. Since writing his first novel as a teen-ager, he has published four additional novels, two books of short stories, and three children's books. His novel Shallows won the Miles Franklin Award (the Australian equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize for Literature) in 1984, as did his most recent novel, Cloudstreet, in 1992. In the United Kingdom, Cloudstreet was named the 1992 recipient of the Deo Gloria Award, given for the best religious novel written each year internationally.
The person most puzzled by this overwhelming response is Tim Winton himself. He did not expect his anti-religious Australian culture to give him much of a hearing. But the more he tells tales spinning spiritual visions of a world where the distinctions between the natural and the supernatural are blurred, the more passionately his audience yearns to hear. And while his culture--not unlike the United States'--is driven by rugged individualism and a survival-of-the-fittest mentality, when he speaks of community and belonging he strikes a chord deep in the Australian psyche.
David Batstone interviewed Tim Winton for Sojourners while the author was in the United States to celebrate the U.S. release of Cloudstreet (Graywolf Press). Batstone was founder of Central American Mission Partners, assistant professor of theology and culture at New College in Berkeley, California, and author of From Conquest to Struggle: Jesus of Nazareth in Latin America (SUNY, 1992) when this article appeared. - The Editors