Royal Society of NSW News & Events

Royal Society of NSW News & Events

Ideas@theHouse: April 2021

Governor of NSW Crest-Silver and Gold-2020Ideas@theHouse

Presented by

Her Excellency the Honourable
Margaret Beazley AC QC, Governor of NSW

Thomas Keneally AO DistFRSN
“Australia and the Dickens Boys”

Thomas Keneally AO DistFRSN

Date: Thursday, 15 April 2021, 6.00pm AEST
Venue: Zoom Webinar
Video Presentation: YouTube Video

Image credit: Tom Keneally in the Tom Keneally Centre at Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts. Photo by Helen White.

 About the talk: Australia was the British Hades where unpromising young men were sent to find the other half of their souls. In the curious second wave of transportees were the unsatisfactory sons of the gentry. We follow Plorn and his experiences in early Australia — Plorn being Edward Bulwer Lytton Dickens, scion of the well known Charles Dickens, who arrived in Melbourne in the late 1860s during the last years of his father’s life. What happened to Plorn and why? What is the importance of historical fiction and how is it written — at least, how and why is it written by Thomas Keneally?

About the speaker: Thomas Keneally AO DistFRSN was born in Sydney in 1935 to Irish parents. He became a prolific writer with a deep knowledge of and reverence for history, especially of the working class and people oppressed because of ethnic or class background. Two good examples are The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith, whose protagonist is an indigenous man, and Schindler’s Ark, about a hero of the Holocaust, a book that became the Oscar winning film, Schindler’s List. Nationally and internationally, Tom Keneally has become a most significant figure in Australian literature and culture. It is no wonder he has been named an Australian Living Treasure.

 With his first novel published in 1964, he now has a list of close to sixty novels and non-fiction works. Novels include The People’s Train, Daughters of Mars, Napoleon’s Last Island, and The Crimes of the Father. Tom’s love of history led to non-fiction titles including The Great Shame, Australians and The Commonwealth of Thieves as well as his most recent novel, The Dickens Boy and four convict-era mysteries, including The Soldier’s Curse and The Unmourned, with his daughter Margaret.

Literary prizes begin at home with the Miles Franklin Award and the Booker Prize. Internationally he has won the Los Angeles Times Prize, the Mondello International Prize, the Helmrich Award (US), the Trebbia International Prize (from the Czech and Slovak governments) and the University of California Gold Medal.

Tom has been made a Literary Lion of the New York Public Library, an Officer of the Order of Australia, a National Living Treasure, and is now the subject of a 55 cent Australian stamp! In 2014 he received an Irish Presidential Distinguished Service Award for his services to Irish culture worldwide. He is a Distinguished Fellow of the Royal Society of NSW, Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Royal Society of Literature. He has honorary doctorates from Rollins College (US), Fairleigh Dickinson (US) and from the National University of Ireland, the University of Queensland, the Catholic University of Australia, the Western Sydney University, University of Technology Sydney, the University of New South Wales, the University of Wollongong and the University of South Australia. He has held academic posts at New York University and the University of California.

Tom lives with his wife, Judith, in Manly (Sydney) and is still writing.

About Ideas@theHouse: In late 2019, Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley AC QC, Governor of New South Wales and Patron of the Royal Society of NSW, invited representatives of the Society to discuss how the Governor might open Government House to a series of public events based on important and/or influential ideas. Her Excellency’s proposal was that the Royal Society of NSW might devise a series of lectures, to be held at Government House, and known as Ideas@theHouse on topics of our choice for an invited audience of our Members and Fellows, together with others to be invited by Her Excellency. This is the second in the Ideas@theHouse series, the first being held in May 2020.

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