Nominated by:

The State Library of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia

Publisher of nominated edition:

Random House, Australia

The Street Sweeper

Elliot Perlman    

How breathtakingly close we are to lives that at first seem so far away.

From the civil rights struggle in the United States to the Nazi crimes against humanity in Europe, there are more stories than people passing each other every day on the bustling streets of every crowded city. Only some survive to become history. Recently released from prison, Lamont Williams, an African American probationary janitor in a Manhattan hospital and father of a little girl he can’t locate, strikes up an unlikely friendship with an elderly patient, a Holocaust survivor who had been a prisoner in Auschwitz-Birkenau. A few kilometres uptown, Australian historian Adam Zignelik, an untenured Columbia professor, finds both his career and his long-term romantic relationship falling apart. Emerging out of the depths of his own personal history, Adam sees, in a promising research topic suggested by an American World War II veteran, the beginnings of something that might just save him professionally and perhaps even personally. As these two men try to survive in early twenty-first-century New York, history comes to life in ways neither of them could have foreseen. Two very different paths – Lamont’s and Adam’s – lead to one greater story as The Street Sweeper, in dealing with memory, love, guilt, heroism, the extremes of racism and unexpected kindness, spans the twentieth century to the present, and spans the globe from New York to Melbourne, Chicago to Auschwitz. Epic in scope, this is a remarkable feat of storytelling.

(From Publisher)

About the Author

Elliot Perlman is the recipient of the Queensland Premier’s award for Advancing Public Debate and has been described by the Times Literary Supplement (UK) as ‘Australia’s outstanding social novelist’, by Le Nouvelle Observateur (France) as the ‘Zola d’Australie’ and by Lire (France) as ‘the classic of tomorrow’, one of the ’50 most important writers in the world’.

His most recent novel is the national bestseller, The Street Sweeper. He lives in Melbourne.

Elliot Perlman’s Three Dollars won the Age Book of the Year Award, the Betty Trask Award (UK), the Fellowship of Australian Writers’ Book of the Year Award and was shortlisted for the John Llewellyn-Rhys/Mail On Sunday Book of the Year Award (UK) as well as for the Miles Franklin Literary Award. Elliot Perlman also co-wrote the screenplay for the film of Three Dollars, which received the Australian Film Critics’ Circle Award for Best Adapted Screenplay as well as the A.F.I. Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Perlman’s second novel, Seven Types of Ambiguity, was a bestseller in France where it was described as ‘one of the best novels of recent years, a complete success’ (Le Monde). In Germany it was called a ‘literary sensation’ (Deutschlandradio), ‘an impressive, iridescent all-encompassing view of feeling’ (Der Spiegel), and described as having ‘the virtues of the great modern European novel’ (Süddeutsche Zeitung). It was a bestseller in the United States where it was described as having ‘traces of Dickens’s range and of George Eliot’s generous humanist spirit’ (New York Times) and named a New York Times Book Review ‘Editors’ Choice’, a New York Times Book Review ‘Notable Book of the Year’ and a Washington Post ‘Editors’ Choice’ as well as one of its all-time dozen favourites ‘on the pain of love’. In the UK it was described as ‘a colossal achievement….a tour de force…(in which) at the end, in a comprehensive, an almost Shakespearian way, Perlman picks up every loose thread and knots it’ (The Observer) and named a Sunday Telegraph ‘Book of the Year’. In Australia it was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award as well as for the Queensland Premier’s Award for Fiction.

Librarian’s Comments

The Street Sweeper was selected by Victoria public librarian vote from a list of suggested nominations compiled by the State Library of Victoria.

Related Entries