Prizewinning Novelist Thomas Keneally Shares $50,000 Award With Fellow Nominees

Novelist, playwright, essayist, and actor Thomas Keneally has won the ARA Historical Novel Prize for his new book ‘Corporal Hitler’s Pistol’ – his 35th novel! Keneally was awarded $50,000 for his achievement, and has decided to share about half of the money with his fellow 6 nominees, Karen Brooks, Lauren Chater, Steven Carroll, Portland Jones, Kim Kelly and David Whish-Wilson, giving each $4,000.

Keneally told the ABC ‘I wanted to look after some of the other writers on the longlist, because writing — for young and old — is often a matter of combining pittances to make a living.’

‘Corporal Hitler’s Pistol’ is set in Kempsey, New South Wales, where Keneally was raised. It is touted to explore the melting pot of rural-small-town life in 1933, a period marked by trauma such as colonisation, sexism and war. Keneally was inspired by some gossip from his youth as well as real-life characters from an ‘accomplished piano man — as those bush piano men were — but he is also a chicken hypnotist’ and the yarn that a farmer at Polo Flats held Hitler prisoner and had taken his pistol.

One of the judges Angelo Loukakis, an author himself, praised the novel for its ‘historically revealing, absorbing, sobering as well as entertaining story’ and Keneally ‘for a highly skilled prose technique that makes him the perfect teller of this human and moving tale, for that rarest of elements – a voice the reader can trust.’

At 87 years old Keneally’s career has been a success, winning and being shortlisted for literary awards including the Man Booker Prize and the Miles Franklin Award. He remarked that even with these accolades it is still meaningful to be recognised as a novelist today, because ‘writing a novel at 87 is exactly the same process as writing at the age of 25.’ A sentiment I imagine a lot of artists, across mediums, can relate to.