Tom Keneally Profile

As he awaits the publication of not one but two books over the coming weeks, Tom Keneally is profiled by Luke Slattery in "The Australian".

The sources for Keneally's novels are often historical, and he typically weaves fiction's thread through history's fabric. The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith was inspired by the true story of the mixed-race Jimmy Governor. It was "the neatness of the events as they existed in history" that appealed to the author. But he was also alert to the tale's contemporary moral resonance. Written at the time of the 1967 referendum on allowing the commonwealth to make laws for Aboriginal people, and published in 1972 at the height of the protest movement, Jimmie Blacksmith was as a conversation with its time.

Keneally is not, in this sense, a writer of period-piece historical fiction. It is not so much the pastness of the past as its presence that interests him. Academic historians often deride historical fiction with what Keneally believes is some justification, but he defends history as a legitimate subject for fictional treatment. "I like to choose the small, salient, marginal event that can light up history in fiction, light up the past and light up the present," he says.

He gives ex-Prime Minister John  Howard a good serve as well.

Keneally's novel The People's Train is out today.  And his new non-fiction work, Australians, will be released by Allen & Unwin on September 1st.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on August 3, 2009 3:35 PM.

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