Thomas Keneally, Man Booker winner in 1982 with Schindler’s Ark, has been pondering in this anniversary year of the fate of Australia's young soldiers who fought at Gallipoli (which featured in his recent novel Daughters of Mars). In a recent interview
he said: “We let them down when they came back – we denied the shell-shock, we were niggardly with compensation. We’re very hot on praising the diggers, but we should apologise to their ghosts for the lack of justice we gave them.” As Schindler’s Ark proved, Keneally has long been interested in the moral dilemmas thrown up by war. His new novel, Shame and the Captives, based on an internment camp in Australia during the Second World War, is due to be published in April.
Liberty, the human rights campaigning organisation, is celebrating its 80th birthday. As part of the festivities it asked assorted eminent folk – among them various Man Booker authors – for their thoughts
. Julian Barnes noted that: “Idealists like to claim that freedom is indivisible. Pragmatists know that it is not: on the contrary, it is easily divisible into thousands of parts, each of which has to be fought for, defended, and fought for again.” Ian McEwan thinks the most important trait of liberty is expression: “The giving and receiving of information, speculation, criticism, fantasy, the exchange within the entire range of our intellectual capacities, is the freedom that brings the others into being.” Marina Warner, chair of the current Man Booker International Prize judges, had a strikingly different take on liberty: “Liberty is a bit like live yoghurt – it grows as if by magic and sweetens its medium if granted the right conditions – and it sleeps when deprived of them.” There's a thought during your next supermarket excursion.
Charles Moore, the biographer of Mrs Thatcher and a former newspaper editor, was asked to write about the portrait of Hilary Mantel recently unveiled in the British Library. In his piece
the painting barely gets a mention, what does is the nature of Mantel’s unexpected appeal. After all, Moore notes: “She has none of those infuriating qualities – cosy TV charm, mental flabbiness, self-conscious Englishness, easy moralising, unmemorable good looks, smiling-through-tears, an inordinate love of animals – which compose our grim modern concept of ‘national treasure’. Yet a national treasure is what she has become.” So how then has she achieved that status? Moore suspects “it has something to do with her sense of the nearness of anarchy and darkness. She seems to fear those things and to be attracted to them. As a Catholic, she has a strong sense of the reality of evil, but as a non-believing one, she cannot find the redemption. This is a good position from which to convey horror.”
Ronan Keating, a former boyband singer with Boyzone, has put crooning and hip-thrusting behind him for a bit and turned to acting
. His new project is a film adaptation of Tim Winton's 1995 MB shortlisted The Riders. The story follows an Australian man's attempts to find his wife who has gone missing in Ireland. When asked about the film Keating helpfully pointed out: “It's not a comedy.” Good to have that cleared up.