2023 - LATE LIGHT - Michael Malay

Michael Malay is the winner of the Richard Jefferies Award for the best nature writing issued in 2023 for his book titled Late Light published by Manilla Press


He will be speaking about his book at the Marlborough Literature Festival on Saturday 28 September 2024 at 5.30pm at the White Horse Bookshop.

The book stems from Malay’s experience as a young Indonesian-Australian newcomer to England faced with discovering how to be at home in an unfamiliar culture and landscape. Malay eloquently brings this personal narrative together with an account of his increasingly close engagement with the natural world around Bristol where he lives. Through this engagement and research, Malay confronts his own feelings of estrangement. He reflects on the crisis facing wildlife and the far-reaching consequences of every loss of species. ‘It is a book about lost and vanishing things, as well as a book about the wonder and strangeness of being alive at this time,’ he writes.

The focus on a group of what he calls ‘edge species’—eels, moths, freshwater mussels, crickets—as opposed to those with more popular appeal, is a deliberate attempt to challenge ‘inequalities of recognition, which in turn have influenced what we try to conserve, and what we neglect’, and ‘to show how, with a slightly different way of looking, we might discover enigmatic worlds in the familiar places where we live’. The result of this masterful weaving together of human and non-human perspectives, and the organic journey narrative that is shaped by the pull of the creatures themselves, is a distinguished literary achievement.

Professor Barry Sloan, Chair of the panel of judges, said:

Against the background of a strong shortlist, this enquiring, thoughtful and moving work, strongly grounded in the writer’s awareness of the interconnections between human life, culture and politics, and the natural world around us, impressed the judges as a highly enjoyable book which deserves a wide audience.

 Michael Malay said:

I’m delighted to be given this award, and especially honoured to be associated with the name of Richard Jefferies. I first encountered Jefferies’ work in 2009, not long after I arrived in England, and the experience of reading Nature Near London, alongside other ‘nature’ books pressed into my hands by university teachers, opened my eyes to a whole new way of seeing, relating and belonging to the landscape. That year, I also had the fortune of falling in with a group of amateur naturalists—birders, botanists, mycologists—and I mention this because, at the heart of Late Light, is a concern with gifts and gift-giving, as well as the vast networks of care, both human and nonhuman, that sustain and nourish us. It’s therefore a pleasure to look back at some of the roads that have led to this book, and to realise how lucky I’ve been with the company that I’ve had; and a joy to realise, too, that Jefferies has been a small part of that journey, a ghostly yet perennially up-to-date guide to that outdoors realm of ‘sunlight and pure wind’. 


Dr. Michael Malay is a lecturer in English literature and the environmental humanities at the University of Bristol. He has published articles on poetry, critical theory and animal studies, as well as creative non-fiction on eels, migration and climate change. He was raised in Jakarta, Indonesia, before moving to Australia with his family at the age of ten. 


The judges for the award are drawn from the Richard Jefferies Society  and their sponsors, the White Horse Bookshop, Marlborough and they had the difficult choice of selecting an overall winner from a highly commendable shortlist of books:

Forty nine titles were nominated in 2023: a very fine year!