Born in Sydney in 1935, Thomas Keneally completed his schooling at various schools on the New South Wales north coast before commencing theological studies for the Catholic priesthood. He abandoned this vocation in 1960 and turned to clerical work and schoolteaching before publication of his first novel in 1964. Since that time he has been a full-time writer with the odd stint as lecturer (1969-70) and writer in residence.
One of the most successful modern Australian writers, Keneally has been short-listed for the Booker Prize on 4 occasions: in 1972 for The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, Gossip from the Forest in 1975, and Confederates in 1979, before winning the prize in 1982 with Schindler's Ark. This last novel caused something of a controversy at the time as it was considered by some to be more a work of journalistic reporting than a novel of fiction, which isn't supposed to be in the spirit of things. In any event, by the time Stephen Spielberg filmed his version of the book under the title Schindler's List in 1993, the controversy was forgotten.
On the Australian front, Keneally has won the Miles Franklin Award twice with Bring Larks and Heroes and Three Cheers for the Paraclete. It might be considered strange that he hasn't won the major Australian Literary Award more often, but it must be remembered that the Miles Franklin is awarded for literary works depicting Australian life and settings. A number of Keneally's later works have reflected his wider range of interests and deal with subjects which are not confined to a specific Australian context. In addition, there appears to have been a move away from older, more established writers such as Keneally by the Miles Franklin judges.
In The Age newspaper of Saturday 7th November 1998 there is the announcement of Keneally's new book The Great Shame. In an article in that paper, Keneally writes: "Some years ago an editor suggested that having written on the Holocaust I should write something on the great Irish catastrophe of the 19th century...We agreed that the 19th-century calamity, particularly the famine, was compelling. But it had been splendidly written about by a number of writers. And it was not comparable to the Holocaust...In any case, I told the editor that if ever I was silly enough to buy into the tendentious question of Irish history I would want to tell the story not frontally from the point of view of convicts transported to Australia for particular crimes, not those aimed directly at person or property but those designed as social or political protest." The result was his new book. The research and writing took three years - the longest gap between any successive books in Keneally's writing history.
Thomas Keneally was awarded the Order of Australia in 1983 for his services to Australian Literature. He is married with two daughters and lives in Sydney.
The Place at Whitton 1964
The Fear 1965
Bring Larks and Heroes 1967
Three Cheers for the Paraclete 1968
The Survivor 1969
A Dutiful Daughter 1971
The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith 1972
Blood Red, Sister Rose 1974
Gossip from the Forest 1975
Season in Purgatory 1976
A Victim of the Aurora 1977
The Cut-Rate Kingdom 1980
Schindler's Ark 1982 (later published as Schindler's List as a tie-in with the Spielberg film of that name)
A Family Madness 1985
The Playmaker 1987
By the Line 1989
Towards Asmara 1989
Flying Hero Class 1991
Woman of the Inner Sea 1993
A River Town 1995
Bettany's Book 2000
An Angel in Australia 2002 (aka Office of Innocence)
The Tyrant's Novel 2003
A Widow and Her Hero 2007
In addition to the above, Keneally has also written the following
novels under the pseudonym of "William Coyle":
Act of Grace 1988
Chief of Staff 1991
Halloran's Little Boat 1968 - an adaptation of Bring Larks and Heroes.
An Awful Rose 1972
Bullie's House 1981
In addition Our Country's Good, by Timberlake Wertenbaker, 1989, is an adaptation of The Playmaker.
Ned Kelly and the City of Bees 1978
Moses the Lawgiver 1975
Australia: Beyond the Dreamtime 1987
The Place Where Souls Are Born: A Journey to the Southwest 1992
Now and In Time To Be: Ireland and the Irish 1992
The Eureka Stockade 1993, by Raffaello Carboni, introduced by Tom Keneally
Memoirs from a Young Republic 1993
The Utility Player: the Des Hasler Story 1993
Our Republic 1995
Homebush Boy - A Memoir 1995 (autobiography)
The Great Shame 1998
American Scoundrel 2002
The Commonwealth of Thieves 2005
Silver City 1984 - directed by Sophia Turkiewicz.
Other Written Work
Through Other Eyes 2002 - introduction by Thomas Keneally.
The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith 1978 - directed by Fred Schepisi, from a screenplay by Thomas Keneally and Fred Schepisi, based on the novel of the same name.
Schindler's List 1993 - directed by Stephen Spielberg, from a screenplay by Steven Zaillian, based on Schindler's Ark.
The Devil's Playground 1976
The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith 1978
God or Politics: Tom Keneally in Eritrea 1990
Presence on the Web:
Thomas Keneally is a leading figure in the Australian Republican Movement (ARM) and you can find the following articles and speech transcripts by him on the ARM web page:
On November 6th, 1999 Australian voters went to the polls to decide two fundamental questions: 1) if Australia will finally sever all ties with the British monarchy and become a Republic; and 2) if a premable will be attached to the Australian constitution. A lot of people attempted to draft such a preamble, including one by Tom Keneally. Both resolutions failed.
Tom Keneally is published in Australia by Random House and you can contact him via their web page or by writing to them at Level 3, 100 Pacific Highway, North Sydney, NSW 2060.
This page and its contents are copyright © 1995-2007 by Perry Middlemiss, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.Return to Larrikin Literature page.
Last modified: April 26, 2007.