About the author

SJ Norman

About the book

Judges' report

SJ Norman’s narrators are lonely, anonymous figures. Norman’s prose has a rhythm that captures their narrators’ sense of solitude and wry humour, not to mention – as in the poetic, circuitous rhythms that open ‘Unspeakable.’ – travel’s meditative repetitions. The product of a unique, and uniquely original, voice, the stories in Permafrost move at a lateral angle, with an undercurrent of erotic unease, evoking places and experiences in an impressionistic, dreamlike manner. Each builds an atmosphere that stays with the reader. Norman has a real talent for creating a sense of disquiet – as in one of the collection’s highlights, ‘Playback.’ – that is both eerie and restless, and not often found today in fiction.

Permafrost recalls the haunted atmosphere of traditional uncanny stories and gothic narratives, not to mention the politically charged autofiction and dreamscapes of authors like Tove Ditlevsen and Anna Kavan. What makes Norman’s achievement so successful is that their narrative manoeuvres occur without any particularly lurid or explicit affect; in stories like ‘Stepmother.’, the narrator’s anxiety is both absolutely ordinary – the passage from childhood to pubescence – and yet entirely nightmarish, too.



Further reading


“…seven eerily affecting stories that traverse and update gothic and romantic literary traditions, incorporating horror, queer, and folk elements to hair-raising effect.” – Paul DalgarnoI, Australian Book Review

“In each story, bodies and places expand and collapse, borders disintegrate and new environments carry the promise of liberation.” – Jessie Tu, The Sydney Morning Herald

“The stories end abruptly, severed almost too soon, but leave a deep, permanent imprint on the reader.” – Bec Kavanagh, Books + Publishing


Read an interview with SJ Norman by Yves Rees via Archer Magazine

Listen to SJ Norman discuss Permafrost on ABC Radio’s AWAYE! with Rubi Bremer

Read ‘Shelf Reflection: SJ Norman’ via Kill Your Darlings

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