Narrow Road to the Deep North (Flanagan)

Author Bio
Where—Longford, Tasmania, Australia
Education—B.A., Tasmania University; M.L. Oxford University
Awards—Man Booker Prize; Commonwealth Writers' Prize
Currently—lives in Hobart, Tasmania

Richard Miller Flanagan is an Australian novelist, "Considered by many to be the finest Australian novelist of his generation," according to The Economist. Each of his novels has attracted major praise and received numerous awards and honours, including the 2014 Man Booker Prize for The Narrow Road to the Deep North. He also has written and directed feature films.

Flanagan is the fifth of six children, descended from Irish convicts transported to Van Diemen's Land in the 1840s. His father is a survivor of the Burma Death Railway. One of his three brothers is Australian rules football journalist Martin Flanagan. He grew up in the remote mining town of Rosebery on Tasmania's western coast.

Flanagan left school at the age of 16 but returned to study at the University of Tasmania, where he became president of the Tasmania University Union in 1983. He graduated with a B.A. with first-class honours. The following year, he was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to Worcester College, Oxford, where he earned a Master of Letters in History.

Flanagan wrote four non-fiction works before moving to fiction, works he has called "his apprenticeship." One of these was an autobiography of "Australia's greatest con man," John Friedrich. Flanagan ghost-wrote the book in six weeks to make money so he could write his first novel. Friedrich killed himself in the middle of the book's writing and it was published posthumously. Simon Caterson, writing in The Australian, described it as "one of the least reliable but most fascinating memoirs in the annals of Australian publishing."

His first novel, Death of a River Guide (1994), is the tale of Aljaz Cosini, river guide, who lies drowning, reliving his life and the lives of his family and forebears. It was described by The Times Literary Supplement as "one of the most auspicious debuts in Australian writing."

His next book, The Sound of One Hand Clapping (1997), which tells the story of Slovenian immigrants, was a major bestseller. Those first two novels, according to Kirkus Reviews, "rank with the finest fiction out of Australia since the heyday of Patrick White."

Gould's Book of Fish (2001), Flanagan’s third novel, is based on the life of William Buelow Gould, a convict artist, and tells the tale of his love affair with a young black woman in 1828. It went on to win the 2002 Commonwealth Writers' Prize.  

His fourth novel was The Unknown Terrorist (2006), which the New York Times called a "stunning...brilliant meditation upon the post-9/11 world."

His fifth novel, Wanting (2008) tells two parallel stories: about the novelist Charles Dickens in England, and Mathinna, an Aboriginal orphan adopted by Sir John Franklin, the colonial governor of Van Diemen's Land, and his wife, Lady Jane Franklin. As well as being a Book of the Year for both The New Yorker and The Observer, it won the Queensland Premier's Prize, the Western Australian Premier's Prize and the Tasmania Book Prize.

The Narrow Road to the Deep North (2013) is Flanagan's sixth novel. The life story of Dorrigo Evans, a flawed war hero and survivor of the Death Railway, it won the 2014 Man Booker Prize.

Richard Flanagan has written on literature, the environment, art and politics for The Australian and international press including Le Monde, Daily Telegraph (London), Suddeutsche Zeitung, New York Times, and The New Yorker. Some of his writings have proved controversial. "The Selling-out of Tasmania," published after the death of former Premier Jim Bacon in 2004, criticized his government's relationship with corporate interests in the state. Premier Paul Lennon declared, "Richard Flanagan and his fictions are not welcome in the new Tasmania."

"Gunns Out of Control," Flanagan's 2007 essay on logging company Gunns, then the biggest hardwood woodchipper in the world, inspired Sydney businessman Geoffrey Cousins' high profile campaign to stop the building of a two billion dollar Bell Bay Pulp Mill. Gunns subsequently collapsed with huge debt, and its CEO John Gay was found guilty of insider trading. Flanagan's essay won the 2008 John Curtin Prize for Journalism.

And What Do You Do, Mr Gable?, a collection of his non-fiction works, was published in 2011.

The 1998 film of The Sound of One Hand Clapping, written and directed by Flanagan, was nominated for the Golden Bear at that year's Berlin Film Festival. He worked with Baz Luhrmann as a writer on the 2008 film Australia.

Flanagan lives in Hobart, Tasmania, with his wife, Majda (nee Smolej) and has three daughters. (Adapted from Wikipedia. Retrieved 10/14/2014.)

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