> Skip to content
About the book
  • Published: 1 October 2011
  • ISBN: 9781742754543
  • Imprint: Random House Australia
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 576
Categories:

The Street Sweeper




'Excellent... Harrowing, humane and brilliant.' - The Times (UK)

'Excellent... Harrowing, humane and brilliant.' - The Times (UK)

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.

  • Pub date: 1 October 2011
  • ISBN: 9781742754543
  • Imprint: Random House Australia
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 576

About the Author

Elliot Perlman

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.

The Reasons I Won't Be Coming, a collection of stories, was a bestseller in the US where it was named a New York Times Book Review 'Editors' Choice' and received the Steele Rudd Award for the best Australian short story collection in its year of publication.

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.

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.

Also by Elliot Perlman

See all

Praise for The Street Sweeper

“The Street Sweeper is a big book, a brave book, a humane and liberal book in a period of history when those values are being derided by conservatives of several schools'.”

Australian Book Review, Don Anderson

“...In heartbreaking detail, this emotional novel offers a fascinating insight into the best and worst of human nature, memory, racism and heroism. Perlman, an acclaimed Australian author, is fast developing a reputation as a modern literary master. And it is well deserved.”

Madison Australia

“‘A heartless doctor, a street sweeper, a stalled academic, an old man with a story to tell that outranks all our present day concerns, engage with one another in this spellbinding novel. Today we are too busy and too distracted to tell or hear a story, to find or be a listener with all the time in the world. Thus knowledge vanishes as memory fades and life comes to an end. This is a book to be read in a quiet place and slowly’”

Annabel Lawson, Australian Country Style

“The Street Sweeper's fiction is grounded in facts, and facts of the most momentous kind.”

Don Anderson, Australian Book Review

“...the read is taken through a broad sweep of 20th Century history. If that sounds worthy but dull, fear not, Perlman manages to both entertain and educate. Put this one on your Christmas list.”

Jan Fisher, Northern Weekly

“Elliot Perlman's third novel...is a sprawling work, generous in spirit and in breadth of imagination, unabashed in its liberal humanism.”

Peter Pierce, Sydney Morning Herald

“Wonderfully rich, engaging and multilayered”

Washington Post

“An expertly told novel of life in immigrant America - and of the terrible events left behind in the old country... Perlman's long tale, spanning decades, is suspenseful and perfectly told in many voices, without a false note. It deals with big issues of memory, race, human fallibilities and the will to survive against the odds.”

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“The Street Sweeper, Elliot Perlman's monumental and, at times, mesmerizing novel, is a meditation on memory - and its relationship to history... [Here] Perlman burnishes his reputation as a masterful storyteller who captures the cadences of consciousness and conversation and the varieties and vagaries of cruelty, courage and compassion... You will, in all likelihood, find it unforgettable.”

Jerusalem Post

“Excellent... Harrowing, humane and brilliant.”

The Times (UK)

“Perlman deftly navigates... complicated waters, moving back and forth in time without having to take narrative responsibility for the course of history. In so doing, he brilliantly makes personal both the Holocaust and the civil rights movement, and crafts a moving and literate page-turner.”

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Humane, compelling and convincing... artfully constructed and well written.”

Sunday Times (UK)

“The connections are resonant and meaningful... in a novel that is both grandly conceived and minutely constructed... The Street Sweeper is an impressive literary achievement, complex in its organization, meticulous in its plotting and deeply satisfying in its emotional payoff.”

Wall Street Journal

“The Australian novelist Elliot Perlman does what all good novelists do: reports on the trials of being human in a world that wishes to frustrate every good deed and punishes with consummate cruelty every sin, however slight ... Epic is a word that one must use carefully. But this is an epic, in scope and moral seriousness ... Perlman offers an affecting meditation on memory itself, on storytelling as an act of healing. Lamont and Zignelik, as characters, seem much less important than the terrifying stories they absorb.”

The Guardian

“This epic about racial persecution employs similar techniques [to Seven Types of Ambiguity] but scales up the ambition, suggesting that Perlman is gunning here for a career-defining third novel... The interleaved sequences set in Nazi Germany and Fifties America are so searingly potent ... As he depicts both the kindnesses and the unspeakable cruelties of the concentration camps, Perlman fleshes out his research with a moral and imaginative force that feels revelatory. ... at its best it demonstrates how history and fiction can converge to tell stories that cry out to be remembered.”

The Telegraph (UK)

“A big, bold international work with a piercing moral sense ... Striking and enlightening ... The novel illuminates the small acts of individual kindness, memory and compassion which must stand against the human capacity for cruelty and inhumanity.”

Prospect (UK)

“Perlman's story of modern New York is a big book in every sense. Huge in its scope, it covers two of the most searingly painful aspects of 20th century history: the Holocaust and the abuse of African-Americans' rights ... Perlman's greatest achievement though, is the sharply drawn New York world - from the slums of the Bronx to Columbia University, from Iranian immigrants to civil-rights lawyers. All are vividly brought to life in an often extremely moving book.”

Readers Digest (UK)

“The Street Sweeper is at once a meticulously researched historical investigation and a contemporary tale of tribulation, rehabilitation and discovery. Perlman manages uncompromising social commentary without moralising and brings our social and judicial institutions sharply into view. The Street Sweeper left me seeing in eight dimensions. All this and a dashing author headshot on the cover - just perfect!”

Carmen Trevino, Sunday Mail, Brisbane


Awards & Recognition

  • ALS Gold Medal Award

    Shortlisted • 2011 • ALS Gold Medal Award

  • Miles Franklin Award

    Longlisted • 2011 • Miles Franklin Award

  • WA Premiers Literary Award

    Shortlisted • 2012 • WA Premiers Literary Award


Related titles