The Tyrant's Novel by Thomas Keneally - review by Geordie Williamson

Geordie Williamson

Writing For His Life

The Tyrant's Novel


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NABOKOV LOATHED 'ISSUE' novels - 'topical trash', he called them - and looked forward with unconcealed Schadenfreude to a time when someone would come along 'with a hammer and take a good crack at Balzac, at Gorki, at Mann'. Reviewing Bend Sinister in 1960, Frank Kermode offered this explanation for the Russian's pique: 'The novel is too easy. It can be stuffed with facts or doctrine, a photograph or tract; or it can be laboriously moulded to fit the shape of some moralistic obsession.'

What, then, would Nabokov have made of Thomas Keneally's latest offering, so nakedly issue-driven, so patently a work of moral outrage: fiction, as Keneally says, born of 'a desire to dissent from all the lies told about asylum seekers', and written 'to pay tribute to the desperate journeys of such

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