Australia's Flanagan takes Man Booker prize with war story

Tue Oct 14, 2014 6:33pm EDT
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By Michael Roddy

LONDON (Reuters) - Australian novelist Richard Flanagan said that before winning the prestigious Man Booker prize for literature on Tuesday he had considered becoming a miner because he found it so difficult to make a living at his craft.

Flanagan, 53, won the prestigious 50,000-pound ($79,530) prize for his novel "The Narrow Road to the Deep North", set during the building of the Thailand-Burma "Death Railway" in World War Two.

"I'm not a wealthy man so in essence this means I can continue to write," Flanagan, sipping champagne, told reporters after winning the prize at a ceremony in London.

"A year and a half ago when I finished this book I was contemplating going to get what work I could in a mine in far northern Australia because things had come to such a pass with my writing, I had spent so long on this book," he said.

The book, while not the story of his father, was in some ways a tribute to him. He had been a POW who worked on the infamous railway that claimed the lives of thousands due to the harsh jungle conditions and treatment.

"I grew up as did my five siblings as children of the 'Death Railway'...I realized at a certain point if I was to continue writing I would have to write this book," Flanagan said.

His father died at age 98, the day Flanagan finished "The Narrow Road to the Deep North." He said he had telephoned his father earlier that day to tell him he had sent off the completed manuscript.

Flanagan added that he did not share the view that the novel was dying because, he said, "I think it is one of the great inventions of the human spirit ... and it is one we need because it allows an individual to speak a truth, their truth, without power and money."   Continued...

Australian author Richard Flanagan, who wrote "The Narrow Road to the Deep North", speaks after winning the 2014 Man Booker Prize for Fiction at the Guildhall in London, October 14, 2014. REUTERS/Alastair Grant/Pool