Though its creation was mired in controversy, the Sydney Opera House helped crystallise Sydney’s identity and aspirations at home and abroad. ABC’s Sarah Macdonald speaks with two acclaimed authors about that seminal moment in our city’s history, the building’s cultural significance then and now, and how it has recently exposed new fault lines in Australia’s culture wars. Helen Pitt’s Walkley Book Award–winning The House reveals the intimate backstory of the iconic structure, and Kristina Olsson’s critically acclaimed Shell uses it as a backdrop for a story of personal guilt and political upheaval.

Kristina Olsson (Australian)

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Kristina Olsson is an award-winning writer of fiction, non-fiction and journalism. Her memoir Boy, Lost garnered multiple national awards and her new novel Shell was chosen as the first title in Scribner’s new Australian literary imprint. Kristina’s previous work includes the novel The China Garden and the biography Kilroy Was Here. She also works as a mentor and teacher of creative writing, and is currently working on a new work of narrative non-fiction. She lives in Brisbane.

Helen Pitt (Australian)

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Helen Pitt is a Sydney Morning Herald journalist who began at the paper in 1986. Her book on the Sydney Opera House, The House, won the 2018 Walkley Book Award.

Sarah Macdonald (Australian)

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Sarah Macdonald is a broadcaster, writer and facilitator. She presents Weekend Nightlife on ABC Radio for night owls. She co-hosts The Full Catastrophe with Rebecca Huntley – a feel good storytelling event about when life got so bad it was funny. Her best selling book Holy Cow has sold around the world and been translated into several languages. It's become a travellers bible (albeit usually black market) and is currently in development for television. She reads. A lot.