Richard Flanagan Profile

Richard Flanagan's new novel Wanting is now in the shops and the author is interviewed in "The Age" by Jason Steger.

Richard Flanagan knows that some people will read his new novel, Wanting, as a historical novel and pillory him for that. But he has been a historian in another life and knows it is not for him.

"History, like journalism, is ever a journey outwards and you must report back what you find and no more. But a novel is a journey into your own soul and you seek there to discover those things that you share with all others. In reading you sense the divine, the things that are larger and greater and more mysterious than yourself."

Wanting is 19th century in location and characters: polar explorer and governor of Van Diemen's Land, Sir John Franklin, and his wife, Lady Jane; Mathinna, the Aboriginal girl they adopt and later abandon; and the great literary voice of the time, Charles Dickens.

But Flanagan is adamant it is not a historical novel. What's wrong, he asks, with writers using history; they have been doing it forever. What about Shakespeare's use of Holinshed's Chronicles? "Shakespeare was completely fictionalising the people who were then the great celebrities of English."

You have to think that all Australian novelists will need to develop a similar response given the way Kate Grenville was criticised for The Secret River. It would be nice to be able to read novels in isolation without the need for some sort of framing mechanism to separate them from other literary, social and political considerations. But we can't. Novels exist and live in the real world and the better ones have an effect beyond the boundaries of their covers. We can't expect the forces at work to only act in one direction.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on November 6, 2008 9:15 AM.

2008 Australia-Asia Literary Award Shortlist was the previous entry in this blog.

2008 Colin Roderick Award is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Monthly Archives

Powered by Movable Type 4.23-en