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(generated from captions) works has won numerous distinctions His output of more than 40 published and Miles Franklin Awards. such as The Booker He's a passionate man of causes ticket holder for the Sea Eagles. and is number-one Tom Keneally. This week's talking head is # THEME MUSIC

on Talking Heads. Tom, it's great to have you Lovely to see you. Aw, thank you, Peter. Do books change the world? I...I hope that in our

groping to the light there are some great books and guides along the way. that stand as enlighteners But, nevertheless, in writing. of reading and you as the writer In a way, the journey of the subjects you're writing about. expands the humanity I think that's why writers, Well it is a journey, isn't it? best people on earth, get into much although they're not always the in various parts of the world. trouble with governments Because, they are used to spending imagining being someone else. all their energy of a hated minority. Imagining being the member who's in love with a man Imagine being a young woman side of absolute chasms who lies on the other of culture and warfare and clan and religion. that they're generally Writers do that to such an extent of minorities. sensitive to the persecution of the other things Let's look at some which shaped the young Tom.

I was born in Sydney in 1935. kids. So we went back to Kempsey But my parents were both Kempsey had had his store. because that's where my grandfather # I'm drowning in the sunshine (Eric Bogle sings) from the skies...# # As it pours down On the western line of Sydney. Then we moved down to Homebush.

Johnny, eight years younger than me. And I had a little brother. My mother was enduring. that got angry easily. She was not the sort of person such a good storyteller My father was and had such a novel use of English, that everyone loved him. sometimes profane,

subject to depression too. But he was, I think, my father joined the RAAF. When I was about seven a-half, two-and-three-quarter years. He was away overseas for two-and- I was the man of the house.

CHOIR SINGS I was taught by the Well, like thousands of Australians and they were certainly muscular Christian Brothers with the old strap. with a sense of social justice. But, they did imbue us I think they thought Which, I've never quite lost.

we were rather disadvantaged. And this is where I started school in 1943. rather annoying kids I was one of those snotty, who spilt his ink a lot.

player as a little kid. I was a keen rugby league by asthma and by lack of talent. I was rather held back both

five-eight for Australia But I did dream of both playing a Nobel Prize-winning author. and being at least I scored all my best tries I failed in both attempts, but at this end of the oval.

to St Patrick's Seminary at Manly In 1953, I came here to study for the priesthood. and I found the regime I was here six years And I found it and the discipline very tough. after six years, I just cracked up a very authoritarian regime. And

and I left. I met my wife Judy in Lewisham Hospital. when she was nursing my mother Judy and I were married in the chapel St Pat's Strathfield. at my old school Well, it was an autumn day and what a happy day it was. of sharp sunlight What a lucky young man I was.

young woman. I was marrying a beautiful and brave Things were beginning to happen. I was a young novelist. successful novelist and so on. A nun and priest, man and wife, isn't it? In a way. It is rather fictional, I found it awfully real. I mean, it happened. that in those days - I tend to think in the early '60s - this was well back, that people, lots of people

part of the religious life. married who'd been named Margaret We quickly had a little girl named Jane. and then another little girl

after I had left the seminary To be a father, in the dark days, and it was very exciting. I loved children's eyes. to see things through

of the family at the dinner table, Tom, that sequence included footage including your dad.

and as a great storyteller. Now, you described him as a larrikin My goodness, that sounds like you. looks up dictionaries of Australian Ah, one of my nephews says he like the Macquarie. And he sees slang or Australian language the first use of a particular idiom. me credited with But, he knows stolen from my father. that they're all I'm often going to the dictionary. When I read your books Do you need to go to the dictionary to actually write those things? go to the dictionary often. Ah, no I don't to have favourite words I've got a tendency

throughout a book. that you use again and again Well, it happens to all writers. phrase or a particular noun They get a passion for a particular

I don't go to dictionaries. I go to or adjective. And so, the thesauruses a bit. Let's go back to Tom's school days. as a Nobel-Prize winner You say you imagined yourself that's quite a lofty ambition... Oh, well know, we... full of Nobel-Prize winners. St Pat's Strathfield was Now, all jokes aside... (Laughs) All jokes aside I... ..did have literary ambitions. place when I did Honours English Particularly, they were cemented in and a particular brother later all the heavy books - gave us access to Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh - that modern literature

It said to me for the first time was a revelation to me. poetry didn't die with Tennyson and the novel didn't die with Hardy. to write about modern things It's gone on and it's possible to write about Australian things. and it might even be possible

the priesthood? What did you imagine? Why did you get attracted to attracted to the drama of it all. I suppose I was immaturely

for a mere mortal to aspire to. It was a humbling array of powers to the church universal. And it connected you To Europe, which I thought about and yearned for a great deal. You'd almost got to the ordained stage. You were almost at ordination. You were there 6-to-7 years, right?

Yes, six ... Yes. So you were almost to the end of the road. What was dark? Ah, well it was the depression into which I sank. I was quite disabled. I wasn't able to study. I wasn't able to pray. Ultimately, I left. And, of course, I was not equipped for the outside world.

Which no-one ever is. Was that the lowest ebb of your life?

Ah, yes certainly. I felt I'd failed my parents. I felt I'd failed my community. I felt on the cusp of society. Rather than in any way partaking in it. I became an onlooker rather than an actor. And the golden moment was when the telegram arrived at our house in Homebush. Accepting my first novel. And when it was accepted, I thought, this is my ticket into the world. In the 1960s in Australia this was heading out to reasonably unknown terrain.

Uncharted waters, yes. It's extraordinary, the proposition that a person who writes a novel has in their mind is - the world needs my book. You know? So, most novelists are

a combination of huge uncertainty, and well, you want to say huge artistic arrogance as well.

Tom, let's look more at your life as a writer. Since I first started writing in 1963,

the summer holidays of, I have had over 30 books published. I don't want to know the exact number because,

some of them I'm prouder of than others. And, so... But, I have been virtually a full-time, self-supporting writer. This is a pool table I've always worked on. I know it looks chaotic, but I got original documents, magazine articles and maps and books. And somehow, out of this terrible, messy melange we get a book.

At least, I hope we do. I've got...I've always been obsessed, with gulfs between religion, culture and race. The story of Jimmy Governor, who was the Black Bushranger as he was called, inspired 'The Chant Of Jimmie Blacksmith'. I wrote it in a very passionate state and then it was made into an equally passionate film. By that great Melbournian, Fred Schepisi. He typecast me as a shearers cook. We need some water for the potatoes, If you want to be of service. Fred had earlier made a film called 'The Devil's Playground'. And he typecast me as a monk.

I believe you have a problem with bed-wetting I've got something here that might help. It's water from the shrine at Lourdes Lourdes water...Really? I suppose, I went from having a cult following to having a big international following winning the Booker Prize for 'Schindler's Ark' And then, of course, a further fillip, further along, with the making of such a good film. I see that it had a certain panache. That's what I'm good at. Not to work, not to work. Presentation. Steven Spielberg went on to win his first academy award for 'Schindler's List'. People often ask me what book of mine I'm most proud of

and I don't know. But one of them is this one. 'To Asmara' the one about Eritrea. Because, it was used, though it didn't sell as well as 'Schindler's List', by all the election observers at the Eritrean referendum. This is one of the best nights the Republican movement's had. It's immensely bigger than the anti-Super League rally last year. CROWD LAUGHS In the early 1990s the former NSW Premier Neville Wran got a group of us Republicans together, and initiated the Australian Republican Movement. Reporter: A patriotic Paul Keating has been championing the Republican cause. Putting the issue of Australia's ties with Britain on the national agenda. What could be perceived as his brick-bashing stance worries us a little bit in that, of course, you can't have a great national movement like a movement to a republic based on a negative. This is one of my mementos from the Republican debate. 'Keneally Dumps on Keating'! Boy, bit of a beat-up, don't you think? I reckon this is our great shame. The Detention Centre for Asylum Seekers. I've spent a lot of my nervous and creative energy

trying to give a voice to this issue. Probably ineffectually.

But, I do know people who have been detained in this and similar places for years, five years, three-and-a-half years, to no particular good to Australia and at great damage to their health. Tom, 'Schindler's Ark', for which you won the Booker Prize, started by complete accident. Yes, I'd been to a festival of Australian films in Sorrento. I came home via the US to do a little book tour, and while I was waiting for the plane to Australia I was looking in a luggage-goods store. And the owner came out and said, "So it's 105 degrees out here,

"and you don't wanna come into my air-conditioned store? "Do you think I'll eat you?" And this man was a Schindler survivor. And he took me out to the back of the repair room, he showed me an archive that he'd put together for MGM in the 1960s on the whole Schindler story.

So, he said "Sir, I must tell you my... "..that I was saved by... "..a large German Nazi businessman "and my wife Mischa, whom I'll introduce you to, was saved as well. "And so as far as I'm concerned this man is God. "But though he was God, Jesus Christ he wasn't." Well, that's a wonderful proposition. You'd never heard of Schindler? I'd never heard of him. And then Poldek, ultimately. When we started on the book Poldek was my guide into this hades of the Holocaust. Whether this was your best book is one thing, but whether this was the best story is another, I suppose. Was this the best story you've encountered? This is a wonderful story to encounter, yes. And Poldek always knew it was. My friend in the luggage store, he always said, "This is a great story of humanity, man to man". Was one of the things that really attracted you to the story, the obvious moral ambiguity of Schindler? Absolutely, it was the fact that you couldn't say where opportunism ended and altruism began. And I like the subversive fact that the spirit breatheth where it will. That I, that good will emerged from the most unlikely places.

How did this change your life, the phenomenon of that book, but more particularly perhaps, the film? Well, it was a great phase of life, a very interesting episode. I'm glad it doesn't happen to me all the time. I don't think I could take the pace. You say "the pace" but you are quite prodigious. Quite prodigious, and I want to know what tops up your reservoir? I can see this energy being drained as you work. Where do you get nourishment from? There are too many stories around to be written and I'm such... I don't like other people saying it. I'm an imperfect storyteller. Because I'm rushing to get this one out so I can write another one. I'm attracted to tales. I can't imagine on the one hand you're writing one thing and you're ferreting around thinking about the next thing, or the thing after that. I don't think that what defeats writers is lack of ideas. I think a lot of us are defeated

ultimately by a lack of response from public and publishers. I think that after a while some novelists say, "This is a mug's game".

Because it's like being an actor. The arts is crazy, you know? And it's a sinking... it's like a sinking ship where all the rewards roll to one end of the ship. Let's go to the football with you. I'm the number-one ticket holder for the Manly Warringa Sea Eagles.

I really think that the loves in my life when I began were writing, family and football. And now it's family, writing, football. But football's right up there. It's right up there with the writing. I mean one of the reasons I write is that I never became a sporting hero. So what was left to do? Except become a deadbeat writer? (laughs)

Every dumpy old man in the stand likes to be associated somehow, mysteriously with the behaviour of the hero. To me, sport is part of the arts. It comes from the same area of the human imagination that the arts come from. I love rugby league, because it's a model of life. It is a model for politics, love, territory, fraternity, everything else. As well as that it's big, boofy boys running into each other. Or avoiding running into each other. And I love it just because it's rugby league. It is such a relief from the business...

the solitary business of writing.

Ladies and gentlemen, please give a warm welcome to Tom Keneally. CROWD CLAPS I'd just published a new novel called 'The Widow and Her Hero'. It relates back to my childhood. Spent amongst soldier's women. Including my mother. Well, she's a young woman in 1945. She's 25, but in the book she's telling the story

from the point of view of a woman in her late 80s or maybe 90. Her husband is beheaded by the Japanese. The thing that always interested me and interests me more as I get old Ii the what happened to women? The wives of the supposed heroes.

Well, it's great to be signing books for people. Because, you find out that there are people who actually read them. And some people are actually grateful for them. That's a wonderful experience because you don't get that feedback when you're on your own at the computer. What do you think of my little granddaughter? Aw! Isn't she beautiful?

My life today with Judy is very serene. We, as two troublesome personalities, we had our conflicts early on but, it seems that I've whipped her into shape. (Laughs) She is the most loyal of women. And the most efficient. I am the most chancy and inefficient of men. So we complement each other. Here's to you, Alex! Well, my daughters are brilliant girls. Of course, because they descended from their mother. It's great having lunch with the grandchildren,

because I sing them songs from Play School. Don't I? Sings # Do you wear your hat on your elbow... # Oh no! No! No! As for my grandchildren I planned what Evelyn Waugh planned,

that I would see them for five minutes every Easter or Christmas.

And if they behaved well I'd give them a boiled sweet. But, I didn't know that I'd fall in love with them, you know? Well Tom, you look very grounded there with the family. Have they helped keep you sane? Oh yes, and that's been a very hard job for all of them. I think that without them I wouldn't be as... ..anywhere near ground level. I'd be floating off somewhere amidst the clouds and very much fearing the fall that was about to happen. They've made me less of a workaholic than I was and at an appropriate time, when I'm getting quite old. I'm shocked to see what an old sod I am now on television. Does writing become harder as you get older?

No, it's become technically easier because you know what to expect during a book now. And you're not as phased by it.

Two very important rules - never let the fact you can't write stop you producing books. Never... and only begin... get it... get it written don't get it right. You can always get it right later. Now, when you read your own work, as you're writing it, do you allow yourself the satisfaction of saying, "That's it. That's great. I've.."? Yes, you do that... That's felicity.

You write a passage and you think "That's fantastic". And that's what we do it for, of course. The irony is that as time passes the lustre of this passage, we thought was so magnificent, will sometimes wear off. And it will attach more to passages that we thought were merely makeshift. Where we're struggling to find the voice inside. Now what about the balanced life? Can you be as prodigious as you are, 40 published works more than that. Plays, novels, non-fiction, articles, involved in movements. Can you do all that and have a balanced life? Yes, indeed finding the balance where you do enough of this sort of thing, talking to the public.

There is a feedback that you get from brushing up against other humans in the normal workplace. That doesn't happen in the writer's workplace. It's the way... It's inevitably lonely. It can be lonely and it can be encouraging to certain mental habits self-doubt, paranoia, so on. And that's why novelists are difficult people.

Now the beard? Yeah, it was... ultimately became the counterweight to my baldness. Not that I was abashed by baldness. I knew it was going to happen. But, I liked to have a counterweight to it. So like most human things it's

vanity, stupidity and subterfuge. I didn't think I could end an interview with you without asking you about it. It's the complete interview now. Tom, it's been great... Thank you, good luck. And that's Tom Keneally. We'll be back with another Talking Heads at the same time next week. Have our look at our website in the meantime at and I'll see you soon.

And next week on Talking Heads, Clive James. The element of fear of going back was of finding that the country you left has left you behind. What I miss about Australia is being young. (Laughs) It's the place to be young. Wednesday on The Cook And The Chef, Simon cooks up a storm with his surefire croissant our southern water while Maggie celebrates and oyster shooters. with her oyster pie Wednesday at 6:30. That's The Cook And The Chef.

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