Transcript: Australian expertise: delivering creative industries globally - Thomas Keneally AO

Download alternative video format (MP4, 8.8MB)


“...and wolf.”

“How many?”


“And do the same thing I’m doing. You might even make money at it.”

Thomas Keneally: Knowing of names, the human scale of the story that’s important.

Narrator: Thomas Keneally is the author of Schindler’s Ark, a novel based on the story of the 1,300 Polish Jews saved from the Holocaust by Nazi Party member and industrialist, Oskar Schindler. Keneally’s book inspired director Steven Spielberg to make the Hollywood blockbuster, Schindler’s List.

Thomas Keneally: It reduced a great tragedy to an imaginable scale.

Narrator: Keneally wrote Schindler’s Ark after a chance meeting with Leopold Poldek Pfefferberg.

Thomas Keneally: Leopold, the survivor, used to say to me “It’s good that you’re an Australian. It’s good that it’s a gentile. This is not a story for Jews; this is a story for gentiles.” Or more accurately, he used to say “It’s a story of humanity, man to man.”

Narrator: To him it’s no surprise that this story has been told by someone living a world away from their memory of Nazi Germany, not a Pole or a Jew but an Australian.

Thomas Keneally: The peculiar history, Australia as a country of immigrants and outcasts, it is very strong in our literature.

Clare Drysdale: [NO SOUND AUDIBLE @ 01:42 - 01:49]


Clare Drysdale: I don’t think we’re quite as hamstrung by the canon. I think there’s a liberation to be had there.

Tom’s contribution to Australian literature has just been extraordinary. He followed in the footsteps of writers like Patrick White and Christina Stead in terms of developing an international audience for Australian literature.

And everyone knows that Schindler’s Ark won the Booker in 1982 but what many people don’t know is that Tom had already been shortlisted for the Booker Prize in the 1970s.

Narrator: Today Australia is evolving, appreciating its value in the world and finding new ways to tell its stories.

Clare Drysdale: There have been a couple of books recently, Burial Rites by Hannah Kent and The Rosie Project by Graeme Simpsion where the Australian agents and Australian publishers have cleverly held these massive auctions for these international books, all from an Australian time zone, and those books have gone on to sell terribly well in many, many countries and I think the fact that you no longer have to leave home to be a successful Australian writer with an international reputation is hugely significant, ‘cause you couldn’t say that of Christina Stead or Shirley Hazzard or even Peter Carey.

Thomas Keneally: So it’s not so strange when you think of it. We are not out of the world, we are part of the same puzzle.