Univ Dates: 2012-2013

Degree: MSt Modern British and European History

Degree Level: Postgraduate

Occupation: Novelist/PhD Student

Biography: Katherine Brabon was born in Melbourne, Australia. She studied law and history at La Trobe University before coming to read Russian History at Univ. She wrote her first work of fiction while at Univ, a short story published in The Mays, an anthology of creative writing by Oxford and Cambridge students. Her research on twentieth century Russia became formative in her ideas for a novel. Upon her return to Australia, Katherine commenced doctoral studies in Creative Writing at Monash University and began work on her first novel. Her short stories, reviews and other writing has appeared in a number of journals, magazines and newspapers. She won The Australian/Vogel Literary Award in 2016 for The Memory Artist, her first novel. Katherine currently lives in Melbourne.


What were your preconceptions of Oxford or Univ before you started here?

I knew that I was going into an environment that could be intense, or intimidating with its high standards. But I also knew I was going to Oxford not just for academic reasons but for a new experience: I wanted to meet people from all over the world, throw myself into learning new things, and take the opportunity to travel. Happily, I did all of those things at Univ.


What do you remember about your first day at Univ?

I had flown from Melbourne to London and taken a bus straight to Oxford, so I was pretty hazy with jetlag. But in the porter’s lodge I met another student who had just arrived and he remains a friend to this day. I think that’s emblematic of my whole experience at Univ; meeting lasting friends and finding my way.


Any one outstanding memory?

I think the Christmas dinner of 2012. It was just pure fun. We first year graduate students had all known each other a few months by then, and the night had a special lightness to it: the songs, food, lights, company… I see photos of that night and our faces are so joyful.


How do you think Univ shaped you?

It was during my year at Univ that I really set myself up for a career in writing. The work I did with my supervisor on Russian history, Catriona Kelly, ended up forming the backbone of research for my novel.

The people I met at Univ were so supportive of the creative things I enjoyed – photography and writing. To be able to think, ‘I can do that’ is a privileged position to be in, and comes from having supportive environments, I feel lucky to have had that.


Did you know what you wanted to do after Univ?

I wasn’t sure until towards the end of my year there. I had studied history and loved the research, but also felt I wanted to work creatively – more specifically, to write. In my final months at Univ I wrote a short story, sent it to The Mays anthology (of creative writing by Oxford and Cambridge students), and was delighted when it was chosen for publication. That really set the course for me to start writing. I applied for a PhD in Creative Writing back in Melbourne and began as soon as I returned home.