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Celebrating Tom Keneally.

Loui Seselja (b. 1948) Thomas Keneally signing books at the Friends of the National Library celebration of his contribution to Australian literary and cultural life, National Library of Australia, 22 October 2006

Each year the Friends of the National Library honour the work of someone who has contributed significantly to the creation of books and book culture in Australia. This year's recipient is Thomas Keneally, one of Australia's most prolific and admired writers.

Thomas Keneally is perhaps best known for his novel Schindler's Ark (1982), which won the Booker Prize in 1982 and was later made into the award-winning film Schindler's List. His novels The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (1972), Gossip from the Forest (1975) and Confederates (1979) were short-listed for the Booker Prize, while Bring Larks and Heroes (1967) and Three Cheers for the Paraclete (1968) are past winners of the Miles Franklin Literary Award. He has written 12 works of non-fiction, including The Commonwealth of Thieves (2005), and 28 works of fiction, including The Tyrant's Novel (2003). The National Library of Australia acquired Keneally's personal and literary papers in 2005.

The celebration honouring Keneally's career took place on Sunday 22 October at the National Library of Australia. Approximately 300 Friends and fans of the author gathered in the Library's Theatre, many of them carrying their treasured copies of his books for signing. Professor Peter Pierce, who edited the 2006 celebration publication Thomas Keneally: A Celebration, reminded the audience of how Keneally's work has 'reached deep' into the heart of Australian history and culture. Actor Bryan Brown, a friend of Keneally's for 30 years, joined the celebration, recollecting a week spent in Sorrento, Italy, promoting Australian culture and attempts in 1999--during a blizzard--to fly the Republican flag on Mount Kosciuszko in the lead-up to the national referendum on whether Australia should become a republic.

In his reply, Tom Keneally expressed his delight at being celebrated while he was still alive to enjoy it. He happily responded to questions from the audience, his comments ranging from a defence of the late Manning Clark--who has 'become a whipping boy for contemporary culture. All he believes is that--people are flawed ... that some white men are flawed'--to his plans for more books.

'We're all waiting for our books to be denounced from pulpits,' said Keneally. 'They don't do that any more and it's a terrible blow to literature.'

Kathryn Favelle

Manager--Publishing and Research
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Author:Favelle, Kathryn
Publication:National Library of Australia Gateways
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Dec 1, 2006
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