Discovering Richard Flanagan


I was listening to Radio National last Friday afternoon. I left work early because it was about to storm- and the BOM radar looked bad. I didn’t want to get caught out on my short ride home..(mmm I’m probably sounding more dramatic that I need to…)

It was Late Night Live with Phillip Adams and his guest was Richard Flanagan– who I have never read. I only heard the last 15 minutes, but was so struck by Richard’s words that I downloaded the podcast- something I am often tempted to do- but then I run out of time…forget to download…forget to then listen…


The link to the podcast is given, but I was really struck by some of this words and insights into writing.

‘Why do I write?- “If I could sing or dance …or spit…I would…but I’m inept at most things but I can write” “(writing is)…a defence against nothingness”

“…joins me in the best way I know to other people…”


I just loved his honesty and his … (well I dunno) … intelligent thoughts.


Richard Flanagan shares my birth year and he lives on Bruny Island!

[digression: Carl and I spent a day on Bruny Island a couple of years ago. We went to Hobart for 4 days to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary (unusual because we never acknowledge our anniversary!) and spent our last day at Bruny Island. We had one of those amazing serendipitous days where we discovered this cafe with the most lovely owners. They fished and  smoked their own fish and made pizza and got the salad greens right out of the garden- I watched). Anyway- a pretty desolate, amazing, though seemingly harsh place to me with some surprises- much like Richard Flanagan…


picture of Bruny Island and windswept Kate here…

Windswept on Bruny

Windswept on Bruny



I also didn’t know that Charles Dickens’ sons were jackaroos and worked on the Hay Plains- did you? (this is where I started to listen to the interview on Friday)


RF quoted de Maupassant – “who remembers a cloud?” Richard – “…. these things move you intensely, but it’s like trying to describe a great love…it is everything…it is nothing…the beautiful thing about a book is that it becomes alive in that act of grace that’s reading…if a reader likes your book, they vest it with the authority of their soul and their entire life and at that moment that book becomes alive…” 


That sums up so much for me and the power, the joy of reading.


RF also said: “… books become more powerful and more necessary…as the avenues for truth close down everywhere else…as they become taken over by power and money…books are one of the last things where a person can express their own truth…and if (a book is written) with enough craft and honesty they will become heard across the continents and through time…they become more remarkable rather than less remarkable…”


I haven’t read ANY Richard Flanagan – any thoughts on what I should read?


His books:

  • Death of a river guide
  • The sound of one hand clapping
  • Gould’s book of fish
  • The unknown terrorist
  • Wanting


PS- huge apologies to Richard Flanagan – he said more, so much more – these are just the parts of the interview that resonated for me. And what a fantastic way to spend a stormy Friday afternoon – one of those moments I’ll remember.

I have said before that I would happily listen to RN all day- if I could make it my paid work!

Here is the podcast.








2 Responses to “Discovering Richard Flanagan”

  1. 1 Kath

    Hi Kate
    Australian Story did an episode on Richard Flanigan recently. The main focus was his efforts to stop Gunns pulp mill and also his relationship with Baz Luhrman. RF wrote the script for Australia. He’s a really amazing person. K

  2. thanks Kath- he spoke about Australia too. Amazing and intelligent and articulate! K

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