Skip to content

Poetry Award Shortlist

Share this content

Title: Fugitive

Author: Simon Tedeschi

Publisher: Upswell Publishing

In 1917, a young composer writes a suite of twenty pieces for piano. They are short, violent and strange, the music of another world. In 1938, a young Jewish family flees Italy for Sydney, Australia. In 1942, another family, this time Polish, are nearly destroyed. Half a century later, a young man begins to understand the role these strange visions have played in everything that came before him and all that has come to be. Fugitive, Simon Tedeschi’s first book, straddles the borders of poetry and prose, fiction and fact, trauma and testimony, filled with what Russian poet Konstantin Balmont called the fickle play of rainbows.



Judges’ report

Taking its title and its inspiration from a series of ghostly, minimalist piano pieces by Prokofiev, Visions Fugitives, Simon Tedeschi’s fugitive visions cover an extraordinary amount of ground: the everyday strangeness of the body, memories of childhood and the ambiguous gift of musical precocity, the traumatic history of a family partly destroyed by the Holocaust, and the inexplicable power of music and art. Fugitive is concerned with borders: between poetry and prose, meaning and meaninglessness, the self and others. Its intense, fugal style contains great humour and great pathos. It is a work of stunning individuality.





Even though I don’t get maths or physics, I have

an intuitive understanding that’s more sensation

than sense, more impulse than understanding,

the way a groove––both a feel and a furrow––is

captured in the body rather than the brain (or,

as the song goes, in the heart). The upturned air

of a grace note, the tacit at the end of a score,

a slow movement with all its little prickles of

doubt and desire.


(Prokofiev referred to his Mimolyotnosti as little

doggies-–because they bite.)


Some of the Mimolyotnosti are ridiculous, others

tender, all painful as an envelope that cuts your



Be careful of these little ones, Sergei seems to say.

Ballgown to clown, but always behind frosted

glass. Waiting for the dreaded knock––


and when we answer the door (which we

must), we’re found wanting. We’re staring at

screens, blunted by shock, less a momentary

apperception than a totalising force. What

Baudelaire and Benjamin saw is now a deafening

music. I cannot write this paragraph without

checking my feed. I need to scrape the scum

off the stove before midnight. My right toenail

hurts because I’ve picked at it. My cat lies on her

back, shows me her belly. She must once have

had kittens. Her teats make me uncomfortable,

one in particular. Three Catholic worshippers

have been beheaded in France. I crack my jaw

so loudly my wife hears it through her Ear Pods.

I’m attacked by regret for a bastard act twenty-

five years ago. I was just doing what was done to

  1. No excuse. I’ve lost the filigree of sentence

flow. My butt hurts, I wiped it too hard again.

I’m getting emails from a lonely older woman. I

stifle contempt. But one day I will be old.


Every child thinks the world was created when

they first looked at it. When I was a kid, I thought

that prior to my birth, the world was black and

white. Consequently, I associated my birth with

a spurt of colour. But we also don’t recall that

first, spasmodic journey through our mothers’

bodies, the same way we often don’t recall our



But when I woke up this morning, I remembered––


The work is everything. The work is nothing.

Modern music is trash. I like it. I loathe it. I

prefer music with a tune. That’s not music, that’s

noise. I found it interesting. It bored me. I didn’t

understand it.


The Mimolyotnosti are not a mystery to be

solved––they are entrails unearthed.


Not only do the Mimolyotnosti mash up our

brains, they threaten our locus of control. They

disabuse us of the notion that we are little Gods.


Art is the ultimate narcissistic wound.


When I play the Mimolyotnosti, I am met by a

wall of faces, a gate of eyes.


I want these twenty pieces to send everyone to

hell or heaven. I want there to be nothing left

(to say), as if an atheist had seen the first spurt

of an amputee’s knee. Each Mimolyotnosti is

shrapnel boring through the body. We stand in

front of the Mimolyotnosti with our pudgy flesh

and our rotten angles, and we are all blown up

and distorted and we are no more.


I am less interested in what people say to me after

a performance of the Mimolyotnosti than by the

weave of their silences. After so many years,

instinct has taught me how to read breathing (as

poetry is a special kind of speaking, listening is

heightened hearing).


I play the Mimolyotnosti. I slide my eye to the

right. I read the room in a heartbeat. I tell from

the wind in a whisper whether someone I’ve

never met before is tired, bored or frightened.



Bring me boredom. I want the boredom of

Proust, the un(c)locking of time, the freedom of

associative speech, the sleepy dance of shapes, a

lyrical languor.


From a whisper one can sense the mood of a

crowd, how it feels (in) its skin, how it takes on

a certain shape, how it swells and snakes and

shifts. Whispering is the only way a human can

move through walls.


In Stalin’s Russia, there were two kinds of

whisperers––shepchushchii, who whispered

so as not to be heard through the walls––and

sheptun, who whispered so as to be heard by the



Petrograd. A house near the centre. Prokofiev

plays the Mimolyotnosti for the first time. I’ve

heard a recording of him at the piano and

it’s completely different to what I expected.

Disjointed. Wiry. Cakes of colours. A Petrov 

pressed against a wet window. (I’ve only ever

played a Petrov in Siberia, in old halls that smelt

of wood shavings and fishbones). To the right of

the piano is a Japanese garden, untended. The

poet Konstantin Balmont is in the far corner, tall

and debonair, damasked in shadow––listening.

On a settee, Kira Nikolayevna, a friend of both

men, one leg over the other, smiling, craning her

neck towards the music. She is brilliant but will

only ever be known for this moment. Balmont

waits until the final chord unravels like strips of

gauze. Then he pulls out his pen––



I do not know wisdom — I leave that to others —


I only turn Mimolyotnosti into verse.


In each fugitive vision I see worlds….



There is no colour in the world.


It is August 1917.


View PDF here.



About the author

Photo: Cole Bennetts

Known primarily as a concert pianist, Simon Tedeschi has written for publications across Australia. When he is not writing or practising, he reads books and drinks coffee. He and his wife, the painter Loribelle Spirovski, live in Sydney, Australia with their cat. In 2022, Simon was awarded the Calibre Essay Prize for ‘This woman my grandmother’. Fugitive is his first book.



Stay up to date with our upcoming events and special announcements by subscribing to The Wheeler Centre's mailing list.

Privacy Policy

The Wheeler Centre acknowledges the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation as the Traditional Owners of the land on which the Centre stands. We acknowledge and pay our respects to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their Elders, past and present, as the custodians of the world’s oldest continuous living culture.