2 minute read

Thomas Keneally (Thomas Michael Keneally) Biography

(1935– ), (Thomas Michael Keneally), The Place at Whitton, The Fear, Bring Larks and Heroes

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Patrick Kavanagh Biography to Knocknarea Sligo

Australian novelist of Irish Catholic extraction, born in New South Wales. He trained for the Catholic priesthood but was never ordained; a fascination with spiritual and moral failure may owe something to this early training. His first novel, The Place at Whitton (1964), a murder mystery set in a seminary during a retreat, was followed by many others including The Fear (1965), Bring Larks and Heroes (1967), Three Cheers for the Paraclete (1968), The Survivor (1969), and A Dutiful Daughter (1971). The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (1972) is an examination of the relationship between European and Aboriginal in which the eponymous hero first attempts to become assimilated into white society and is later driven to murder. Keneally's most characteristic subject is that of the individual in a hostile environment, frequently finding himself (or herself) in opposition to religious, political, or social systems. Blood Red, Sister Rose (1974), a novel about Joan of Arc (a figure who recurs in several of his books), was followed by Gossip from the Forest (1975), A Season in Purgatory (1976), A Victim of the Aurora (1977), The Confederates (1979), Passenger (1979), and Cut-Rate Kingdom (1980). His best-known work, Schindler's Ark (1982), caused controversy because it was originally commissioned as a work of non-fiction, but was later reclassified as a novel by its editors and subsequently won the Booker Prize; the film version, Schindler's List, appeared in 1994. Later novels include A Family Madness (1985), which inserts flashbacks of a Belorussian family's wartime experience into an account of their lives in post-war Australia; The Playmaker (1987), about a performance of Farquhar's The Recruiting Officer by a group of convicts in Sydney Cove; Towards Asmara (1989), about Eritrean resistance to the Ethiopian government; Flying Hero Class (1991), about the hijacking of an American aircraft whose passengers include an Aboriginal dance troupe; Woman of the Inner Sea (1992), an allegory of the impoverishment of contemporary values versus the simple life of an earlier era; Jacko the Great Intruder (1994), which explores the dominance of television-oriented culture via a New York chat show host; and A River Town (1995), about a quest for justice for the remains of an unknown dead woman in a small Australian town, circa 1900. His playscripts include Halloran's Little Boat (1966; an adaptation of Bring Larks and Heroes) and a dramatization of Gossip from the Forest (1983), as well as several plays: Childermas (1968), An Awful Rose (1972), and The Bullie's House (1980). He has also published two travel books: Now and in Time to Be: Ireland and the Irish (1991) and The Place Where Souls are Born (1992), which traces the southwestern desert regions of America and their inhabitants. His autobiographical works include Memoirs from a Young Republic (1993), which expresses a Republican polemical view of twentieth-century Australia, and Homebush Boy: A Memoir (1995). Keneally was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1972.

Additional topics