Thomas Keneally

Thomas Michael ("Mick") 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.

    Life and career

    Born in Sydney, Keneally was educated at St Patrick's College, Strathfield. Subsequently, a writing prize there has been named after him. He entered St Patrick's Seminary, Manly to train as a Catholic priest. Although he was ordained as a deacon while at the seminary, he left without being ordained to the priesthood. He worked as a Sydney schoolteacher before his success as a novelist and 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 award-winning Fred Schepisi film The Devil's Playground (1976).

    In 1983, he was made an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO). He is an Australian Living Treasure.

    Keneally was a visiting professor at the University of California, Irvine(UCI) where he taught the graduate fiction workshop for one quarter in 1985. From 1991 to 1995, he was a visiting professor in the writing program at UCI.

    He is a strong advocate of an Australian republic, meaning the abolition of the Australian 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. in 2004 he gave the sixth annual Tom Brock Lecture. 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 biography Lincoln to President Barack Obama as a state gift.

    Most recently[] Keneally featured as a writer in the critically acclaimed Australian drama Our Sunburnt Country.

    Keneally's nephew Ben is married to the former Premier of New South Wales, Kristina Keneally who in July 2014 joined Sky News Australia and currently co-hosts the TV news program Keneally and Cameron.

    The Tom Keneally Centre opened in August 2011 at the Sydney Mechanics' School of Arts, housing Keneally's books and memorabilia. The site is used for book launches, readings and writing classes.


    Man Booker Prize The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, shortlisted 1972
    Gossip from the Forest, shortlisted 1975
    Confederates, shortlisted 1979
    Schindler's Ark, winner 1982
    Miles Franklin Award Bring Larks and Heroes, winner 1967
    Three Cheers for the Paraclete, winner 1968
    An Angel in Australia, shortlisted 2003
    The Widow and Her Hero, longlisted 2008
    Prime Minister's Literary Awards The Widow and Her Hero, shortlisted 2008
    New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards Special Award, winner 2008
    Helmerich Award Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award, 2007

    Schindler's Ark

    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.



    • (1964)
    • (1965), rewritten in (1989) as
    • 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
    • (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.
    • (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
    • (1976), love among Tito's partisans in World War II
    • (1978), a book for
    • (1978), a detective story set on an Antarctic expedition
    • (1979)
    • Confederates (1979), based on Stonewall Jackson's army
    • (1980), Australia at war in 1942
    • Schindler's Ark (1982), winner of the Booker Prize, later released and filmed as Schindler's List
    • (1985)
    • The Playmaker (1987), prisoners perform a play in Australia in the 18th Century
    • Act of Grace (1985), (under the pseudonym William Coyle) Published as Firestorm in the US
    • (1989), working-class families face World War II in Sydney
    • (1989), the conflict in Eritrea
    • (1991), Palestinians hijack an aeroplane carrying an Aboriginal folk dance troupe
    • (1991), (under the pseudonym William Coyle)
    • (1993), Keneally retells a story once told him by a young woman that haunted his imagination
    • (1993), madness and television
    • (1995)
    • (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
    • The Daughters of Mars (2012), two Australian sisters struggle to nurse soldiers horrifically wounded in World War I
    • (2014), ISBN 147673464X, recounts the escape of Japanese prisoners of war in New South Wales during WWII
    • Napoleon's Last Island (2015)


    • (1975)
    • (1983)
    • (1987)
    • (1992)
    • (1992)
    • (1993)
    • (1993) Rugby league footballer Des Hasler
    • (1995)
    • (1995), autobiography
    • (1998)
    • (2002), biography of Daniel Sickles
    • (2003), biography of Abraham Lincoln
    • The Commonwealth of Thieves: The Story of the Founding of Australia (2005)
    • (2007)
    • (2009)
    • (2011)
    • (2011)
    • (2014)



    • "Irish Escape". Secrets of the Dead. 2008-06-04. PBS. Thirteen. 



    • Australian Biography website, including video interviews (and transcripts)

    Further reading

    • Sharrad, Paul (March 2015). "Just the ticket! The Thomas Keneally Papers" (PDF). The National Library of Australia Magazine 7 (1): 8–11. Retrieved 2015-04-17. 

    External links