"And I definitely wanted to be a writer, but I felt a duty now, having used up those educational resources, I felt a duty to the church and my parents to become a priest." -- Thomas Keneally
Thomas Michael Keneally, AO (born 7 October 1935) is an Australian novelist, playwright and author of non-fiction. He is best known for writing Schindler's Ark, the Booker Prize winning novel of 1982 which was inspired by the efforts of Poldek Pfefferberg, a Holocaust survivor. The book would later be adapted to Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture.
"And I found both literature and the church very dramatic presences in the world of the 1950s.""And I liked pluralist Australia. I got a taste for pluralist Australia. I like, I like Australians and I can't believe that they're going to go to hell because they tell a good dirty joke, you know.""And I think my sexuality was heavily repressed by the church, by the, you know, the design of the mortal sins.""And I was very interested in the priesthood.""And it is a folly to try to craft a novel for the screen, to write a novel with a screen contract in mind.""And so um, I knew that I really didn't want to be a priest and didn't want to be a celibate, though I could probably manage it. Um, and um, ultimately I left.""Australia integrated the - brought on the ships and unleashed in the society the dogs of sectarianism, which had existed in other places - in Glasgow, in Liverpool and of course in Ireland, north and south.""But I was also a brat. I used to belong to a gang that went looking for fights with other gangs.""But in practice Australia - the pluralism of Australia - sorry the sectarianism to an extent stopped at the time you took your uniform off after coming home from school.""I must apologise because I know all writers have memories of being on the outer because it's the children on the side of the playground who become the dangerous writers.""I thought I'd definitely be a writer, whatever I did.""I was never any good at cricket thought I love it as a, as a sort of mystery.""In a way Australia is like Catholicism. The company is sometimes questionable and the landscape is grotesque. But you always come back.""My brother arrived some months after my father left. Um, and he ah, was thus eight years younger than me and it was um, you know, it was such a time that my mother probably had people wondering was it his.""So I remember both medicine, because I frequently sick, particularly with asthma for which there was no proper treatment then, and in religion I had a strong sense of there being a patriarchy.""So I was very close to ordination. I was delighted to be ordained a deacon, which is the last step between, before becoming a priest. But then it all fell apart.""So nonetheless given the importance that was placed on sport in Australia, I wanted to be part of that scene, particularly since I had felt very strongly in my early schooling being marginalised even in the Catholic school.""Thomas was my true name but everyone knew me as Mick, except my mother, who knew me as definitely Michael.""Um, what I found though about the Christian Brothers is this: that they were certainly muscular.""You know, so I was a weird eccentric kid but I did believe in the power of the word and of the word being made flesh I suppose, which again I suppose came from my temperament as well as my upbringing."
Born in Sydney, Keneally was educated at St Patrick's College, Strathfield, where a writing prize was named after him. He entered St Patrick's Seminary, Manly to train as a Catholic priest but left before his ordination. He worked as a Sydney schoolteacher before his success as a novelist, and he was a lecturer at the University of New England (1968—70). He has also written screenplays, memoirs and non-fiction books.
Keneally was known as "Mick" until 1964 but began using the name Thomas when he started publishing, after advice from his publisher to use what was really his first name. He is most famous for his Schindler's Ark (1982) (later republished as Schindler's List), which won the Booker Prize and is the basis of the film Schindler's List. Many of his novels are reworkings of historical material, although modern in their psychology and style.
Keneally has also acted in a handful of films. He had a small role in The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (based on his novel) and played Father Marshall in the Fred Schepisi movie, The Devil's Playground (1976) (not to be confused with a similarly-titled documentary by Lucy Walker about the Amish rite of passage called rumspringa).
In 1983 he was made an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO). He is an Australian Living Treasure.
He is a strong advocate of the Australian republic, meaning the severing of all ties with the British monarchy, and published a book on the subject Our Republic in 1993. Several of his Republican essays appear on the web site of the Australian Republican Movement.
Keneally is a keen supporter of rugby league football, in particular the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles club of the NRL. He made an appearance in the 2007 rugby league drama film The Final Winter.
In March 2009, the Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd, gave an autographed copy of Keneally's Lincoln biography to President Barack Obama as a state gift.
Most recently Thomas Keneally featured as a writer in the critically acclaimed Australian drama, "Our Sunburnt Country".
Thomas Keneally's nephew Ben is married to the NSW Premier, Kristina Keneally.
Keneally wrote the Booker Prize-winning novel in 1982, inspired by the efforts of Poldek Pfefferberg, a Holocaust survivor. In 1980 Pfefferberg met Keneally in his shop, and learning that he was a novelist, showed him his extensive files on Oskar Schindler. Keneally was interested, and Pfefferberg became an advisor for the book, accompanying Keneally to Poland where they visited Kraków and the sites associated with the Schindler story. Keneally dedicated Schindler's Ark to Pfefferberg: "who by zeal and persistence caused this book to be written." He said in an interview in 2007 that what attracted him to Oskar Schindler was that "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 is, that good will emerged from the most unlikely places". The book was later made into a film titled Schindler's List (1993) directed by Steven Spielberg, earning the director his first Best Director Oscar. Keneally's meeting with Pfefferberg and their research tours are detailed in Searching for Schindler: A Memoir (2007).Some of the Pfefferberg documents that inspired Keneally are now housed in the State Library of New South Wales in Sydney. In 1996 the State Library purchased this material from a private collector.In April 2009 a copy of the list (including 801 names) was found in the documentation Thomas Keneally used as research material for his novel.
The Fear (1965), rewritten in (1989) as By the Line.
Bring Larks and Heroes (1967), winner of the Miles Franklin Award, set in an unidentified British penal colony.
Three Cheers for the Paraclete (1968), winner of the Miles Franklin Award, comic novel of a doubting priest.
The Survivor (1969), a survivor looks back on a disastrous Arctic expedition.
A Dutiful Daughter (1971), Keneally's personal favourite.
The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (1972), also filmed. Written through the eyes of an exploited Aborigine who explodes in rage. Based on an actual incident. Keneally has said he would not now presume to write in the voice of an Aborigine, but would have written the story as seen by a white character.
Blood Red, Sister Rose (1974), a novel based loosely on the life of Joan of Arc.
Gossip from the Forest (1975), tells of the negotiation of the armistice that ended World War I.
Season in Purgatory (1976), love among Tito's partisans in World War II.
Ned Kelly and the City of the Bees (1978), a book for children.
A Victim of the Aurora (1978), a detective story set on an Antarctic expedition.
Confederates (1979), based on Stonewall Jackson's army.
The Cut-Rate Kingdom (1980), Australia at war in 1942.
Schindler's Ark (1982), winner of the Booker Prize, later retitled Schindler's List.
A Family Madness (1985)
The Playmaker (1987), prisoners perform a play in Australia in the 18th Century.
Act of Grace (1985), (under the pseudonym William Coyle)
By the Line (1989), working-class families face World War II in Sydney.
Towards Asmara (1989), the conflict in Eritrea.
Flying Hero Class (1991), Palestinians hijack an aeroplane carrying an Aboriginal folk dance troupe.
Chief of Staff (1991), (under the pseudonym William Coyle)
Woman of the Inner Sea (1993), Keneally retells a story once told him by a young woman that haunted his imagination.
Jacko (1993), madness and television.
A River Town (1995)
Bettany's Book (2000)
An Angel in Australia (2000), also published as Office of Innocence
The Tyrant's Novel (2003), an Australian immigration detainee tells his story
The Widow and Her Hero (2007), the effect of war on those left behind
The People's Train (2009), a dissident escapes from Russia to Australia in 1911, only to return to fight in the revolution
Moses the Law-Giver (1975)
Beyond the Dreamtime (1987)
A Journey to the Southwest (1992)
Ireland and the Irish (1992)
Memoirs from a Young Republic (1993)
The Des Hasler Story (1993) Footballer Des Hasler
Our Republic (1995)
A Memoir (1995), autobiography
The Great Shame (1998)
American Scoundrel (2002)
Lincoln (2003), biography of Abraham Lincoln
The Life of the Notorious Civil War General Dan Sickles (2003), biography of Daniel Sickles