Christos Tsiolkas has personal experience of the far-reaching impact of a slap. When he was 18 and about to go to university, his uncle slapped him ‘somewhere between affection and a warning’ so as not to forget where he came from.
Tsiolkas, Australian born and bred, is the son of Greek parents. When he first told his mother he was going to be a writer, she said: ‘You are going to die poor and on the streets’. To date, that outcome looks unlikely. He has written ten books as well as nine works for stage and screen, and The Slap was turned into a successful television series. Tsiolkas acknowledges the importance of his Greek heritage but sees fiction as a way of freeing himself from it. ‘If I can’t write as a woman, a black person, an old man or a young girl, what the hell am I doing writing at all?’ he asks.