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Australian Book on WW2 'Death Railway' wins Man Booker Prize

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  • Australian Book on WW2 'Death Railway' wins Man Booker Prize

    Australia author Richard Flanagan has won the Man Booker prize for a novel inspired by his father's experiences on the notorious Thai-Burma Railway in WW2. This is one of those stories that just makes me proud & happy all at once. The subject matter and the sense of a son honouring a beloved father touch me deeply. My own uncle was a POW of the Japanese and spent time on the 'Death Railway'. His account of that time is chilling. Richard Flanagan is one of those compassionate, articulate individuals who make me proud of my country. His brother is also one of the better writers on the sport of Australian rules. One of the best things about this is that it will bring this story to another generation. This book will become a regular on school reading lists for decades to come. A truly wonderful day.

    The first Man Booker prize to allow American nominees was on Tuesday night won by an Australian, with Richard Flanagan triumphing for a “magnificent novel of love and war” that tells the harrowing stories of prisoners and captors on the Burma railway.

    Flanagan won for The Narrow Road to the Deep North as he became the third Australian to win the prize, following on from Thomas Keneally and Peter Carey.

    He instinctively hugged the Duchess of Cornwall as he received the award at a black tie dinner in London.

    “In Australia the Man Booker prize is sometimes seen as something of a chicken raffle,” he joked. “I just didn’t expect to end up the chicken.”

    The novel is an incredibly personal book for Flanagan, whose father was a survivor of Japan’s campaign to build the railway. He died aged 98 on the day Flanagan emailed his final draft to his publisher.

    “I grew up, as did my five siblings, as children of the Death Railway,” Flanagan said. “We carried many incommunicable things and I realised at a certain point … that I would have to write this book.”

    Over 12 years he wrote five drafts that he deemed deficient and burned, but he was intent on finishing before his father died.

    He stressed that the novel was not his father’s story, although he had asked him lots of questions – “the nature of mud, the smell of rotting shin bone when a tropical ulcer has opened up, what sour rice tasted like for breakfast”.

    He added: “In the end my father never asked me what the story was, he trusted me to write a book that might be true.”

    Flanagan wins £50,000, money he said would be spent on “life”, as he was not wealthy and had even, 18 months ago, considered trying to get work in the mines of northern Australia because he had spent so long on one book.

    “This prize money means I can continue to be a writer,” said Flanagan, who also worked as one of the screenwriters on Baz Luhrmann’s film Australia.

    The philosopher AC Grayling, who chaired the judges, called his book “an absolutely superb novel, a really outstanding work of literature”.

    At its heart, the book tells the excoriating, horrific story of what it was like to be a prisoner of war forced to work on what has become known as the Death Railway between Thailand and Burma.

    But the novel is about much more than that, said Grayling. “It is not really a war novel, it is not about people shooting one another and bombs going off, it is much more about people, their experience and their relationships. What’s interesting about it is that it is very nuanced, as if everyone on the Burma railway, both sides of the story, were victims.”
    Richard Flanagan wins Man Booker prize with

    Win nervously lose tragically - Reds C C