Richard Flanagan

Portrait Richard Flanagan
© Hartwig Klappert

Richard Flanagan was born in 1961 in the town of Longford, Tasmania, Australia, Flanagan grew up in the mining town of Rosebery and got his B.A. from the University of Tasmania. He was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to Worcester College, Oxford, where he graduated with a Master of Letters in history. Before turning to fiction, Flanagan wrote several history books, including »A Terrible Beauty: History of the Gordon River Country« (1985) and »›Parish-fed Bastards‹: A History of the Politics of the Unemployed in Britain 1884–1939« (1991).

His fiction debut, »Death of a River Guide« (1994) is no less marked by retrospection, in particular at the history of Tasmania’s settlement. Trapped in the rapids and drowning, the title character has visions of his own life and that of his ancestors. Flanagan further demonstrated his skill for highly imaginative renderings of historic figures and colonial life in the works that followed, »Gould’s Book of Fish« (2001) and »Wanting« (2008). But he has an adept sensibility for present day issues as well, on display in books such as »The Unknown Terrorist« (2006), in which the manipulative media create a miasma of mistrust that ends in violence. In 2011, he published »And What Do You Do Mr. Gable?,« a collection of non-fiction essays that had previously appeared in newspapers and magazines, including »The New York Times,« Germany’s »Süddeutsche Zeitung,« and the French daily »Le Monde.« In his high-profile closing address at the 2011 Melbourne Writers Festival »The Australian Disease: On the Decline of Love and the Rise of Non-freedom,« which was broadcast across Australia, he warned against the consequences of conformism, and called for commitment as well as empathy. Flanagan worked for 12 years on »The Narrow Road to the Deep North« (2013), an epic set during construction of the Burma-Thailand railway. The author has said he was influenced to write the book by his father’s experiences as a Japanese POW in World War II, as part of »Dunlop Force.» This group of POWs under the command of Edward Dunlop survived the tortures of internment and forced labor on the »Death Railway« and Flanagan is unsparing in his descriptions of the disease, hunger, and brutality the men suffered.

The novel won the Man Booker Prize in 2014. In addition to several nominations for the Miles Franklin Award, Flanagan has also won the Adelaide Festival’s National Fiction Award (1996) and the Commonwealth Writers Prize (2002). The author is on the council of the animal advocacy organization Voiceless and lives in Hobart, Australia with his family.