Tasmanian writer Richard Flanagan has just been announced as the 2014 winner of the Man Booker Prize …
• Use the TT NEWS Dropdown Menu (top Nav Bar) for more on the Flanagan triumph, for The Narrow Road to the Deep North …
Prominent Australian author Richard Flanagan has won the prestigious Man Booker Prize.
The Tasmanian took out the 50,000-pound ($88,000) prize, which was announced at an awards ceremony in London.
Flanagan’s novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North, which tells the story of prisoners of war on the Burma railway, was one of six books short-listed for the international prize.
He becomes the first Tasmanian and third Australian to win the award.
Flanagan said last month he was astonished to be short listed.
“It’s a wonderful feeling, but it’s an overwhelming feeling too because to be a writer, you don’t expect those sort of things,” he said.
The book has struck a chord with readers in Australia, the UK and the US, and Flanagan said he regarded readers as the true test and the real judges.
“My greatest debt is to them. That’s why I write and that’s why I’ll continue to write,” he said.
“When I was first published there were no glowing reviews, there were no prizes.
“It was readers who found me and it was readers who kept buying my books and supporting me.
“It’s because of readers that I’m here now and I was able to write this book.”
The novel was inspired by Flanagan’s late father, Archie Flanagan, who survived being a POW on the Thai-Burma railway.
• Guardian: Man Booker prize: Richard Flanagan wins with ‘timeless depiction of war’ Australian novelist picks up award for story of prisoners and captors on Burma railway in The Narrow Road to the Deep North
• Pete Hay, Mercury: Liberating the spirit of our island: Richard Flanagan takes Tasmania out into the world… By the time Flanagan came along, the negative shadow of the generation of the 1960s had all but expunged any sense that Tasmania’s unfolding story was one that could engage the creative imagination. Flanagan changed all that. The island, he insisted, is saturated with mythical portent. He made it legitimate to stay put; to take Tasmania for one’s creative canvas. And he, personally, took Tasmania to the world. His legacy is, I think, beyond calculation. Almost incredibly, this is the man for whom former premier Paul Lennon decreed there to be “no place” in the “new Tasmania”. The trouble with the ex-premier’s call is that it is not he but Flanagan who defines the “new Tasmania”. Nevertheless, this episode cut Flanagan to the bone — not Lennon’s attack as such, because Flanagan is as fierce as he is eloquent when it comes to the island’s muddling and spiteful politics, and he had already called out Lennon for worse than he received. If you dish it out, you have to take it when it is served back. No, what cut Flanagan was the perceived lack of outrage on the part of the Tasmanian arts community, and its literary practitioners in particular. There was no flood of indignant letters to the press, and Flanagan felt isolated, abandoned …
• Gerard Henderson executive director of The Sydney Institute: Sorry, Mike, Nazism was a secular movement — unlike today’s Islamic State
THE alienated left-intelligentsia invariably enjoys a comfortable life in Western societies.
Unable to complain with any credibility about personal oppression, members tend to express embarrassment about their society in general and/or seek to rationalise the actions of its declared enemies.
So it came as no surprise that when Tasmanian writer Richard Flanagan won the Man Booker Prize for his novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North, he restated his mantra: “I’m ashamed to be Australian.”
The reference was to climate policy in this instance but, in his book The Unknown Terrorist, Flanagan exhibits a certain ambivalence to terrorists. Flanagan is a green-left type. He admires David Hicks (who once boasted he was “well trained for jihad”) but opposes Tony Abbott, who has committed Australian forces to support Iraq – against the Sunni Islamists of Islamic State.
On October 5, I appeared with The Saturday Paper’s Mike Seccombe plus others on the ABC’s Insiders program. Seccombe criticised the Prime Minister’s statements about Islamists.
Abbott’s comments were directed at his government’s policy of attempting to prevent radical Sunni Islamists departing Australia with the intention to kill Shia Muslims, Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq and Syria.
Seccombe’s position was that the Prime Minister exaggerated the threat of Islamic State fighters to Australia and Australians. He alleged Abbott is “clearly conflating a small handful of allegedly Islamic — but really, you know, not; they’re Islamic in the same way the Nazis were Christian, right?”.
No. Wrong on all points. Those who have joined Islamic State are avowedly Islamic. Moreover, they plan to establish a Sunni caliphate ruling in accordance with sharia law. Seccombe may claim the members of Islamic State are not Islamic but that is not how they view themselves. His approach is an attempt to distance Islam from Islamist extremists.
The Switch to Moral Equivalence …
Then Seccombe threw the switch to moral equivalence. Hence his line that the “Nazis were Christians”. In fact, the Nazi movement was a secular organisation that advocated paganism. An example of the Nazi mindset is provided in Robert Wistrich’s documentary Good Morning, Mr Hitler! and his book Weekend in Munich: Art, Propaganda and Terror in the Third Reich.
Wistrich’s work covers the Day of German Art festival organised by the Nazis and held in Munich in July 1939, shortly before World War II.
The festival opened on July 16, 1939. It was attended by such German leaders as Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, Robert Ley, Adolf Wagner, Joseph Goebbels and Albert Speer. The moving pictures and still footage of this event depict a pagan festival replete with Nazi secular symbols, including the pre-Christian symbol insignia of the swastika. There was no reference of any kind to Christianity.
When I mentioned to Seccombe on-air that Nazism was a secular movement, he was none too impressed. During a break in the program, while a video clip was shown, I commented that Pope Pius XI had condemned Nazi Germany in a papal encyclical in 1937. Seccombe looked at me as if I had made this up. In such discussions, a little bit of historical knowledge can be helpful.
It’s true that, in 1933, the Nazi regime signed a concordat with the Vatican. This was intended to preserve the rights of the Catholic Church under the new regime. However, once the Nazis began to establish themselves in power, they moved against the Catholic Church along with most Protestant churches.
It is well known that in 1937 Pope Pius XI condemned communism in an encyclical titled Divini Redemptoris (on atheistic communism). Not so well known is that, in the same year, Pius XI issued an encyclical titled Mit Brennender Sorge (on the condition of the church in Germany).
In Mit Brennender Sorge, released on March 14, 1937, Pius XI declared that the Nazi regime had initiated “a war of extermination” directed at Catholics. He complained especially about the regime’s attempts to close down Catholic schools along with its actions taken against Catholic Action youth movements. The Pope also hit out at Germany’s atheist rulers — accusing them of supplanting the gospel of Christ with a “myth of race and blood”.
Pius XI associated the Nazi regime with “ancient paganism” and sent his “words of gratitude and commendation” to priests who were “imprisoned in jail and concentration camps”.
What the likes of Seccombe do not understand is that the Nazi regime was in a contest with the Catholic Church and some Protestant churches for members and supporters. In the early years of the regime, what became the Hitler Youth competed with Catholic Action for members.
Then there is the allegation that Hitler was a Catholic. Writing in Fairfax Media on October 3, social commentator Hugh Mackay commented that “a mere 75 years ago, Nazi Germany had even grander territorial goals than ISIL”. He added: “Many Nazis wereChristians who believed that God was on their side: Hitler himself was a Catholic.”
Well, Hitler was baptised a Catholic — at the instigation of his parents. However, as an adult, Hitler never regarded himself as a Catholic or Christian. Rather, he was a proud atheist. This stands in stark contrast to today’s members of Islamic State, who proclaim their allegiance to Islam. Hitler’s detestation of Christianity, Catholic and Protestant alike, was attested to by the likes of Speer and Goebbels. In the event, the Nazi regime was destroyed by Judaeo-Christian nations.
As Joe Sharkey commented in The New York Times in January 2002, after examining some of the prosecution’s material prepared for the Nuremberg war crime trials: “Once they had total power and set off to launch a world war, the Nazis made no secret of what lay in store for Christian clergymen who expressed dissent.”
Obviously the Nazis overwhelmingly targeted Jews, not Christians. But the Nazi leaders were not Christian. The unfashionable fact is that Islamic State’s leaders are all Muslim. It’s just that alienated types such as Seccombe and Flanagan like to underestimate the intentions and beliefs of the West’s enemies.