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Richard Miller Flanagan (born 1961) is an Australian novelist from Tasmania. "Considered by many to be the finest Australian novelist of his generation", according to The Economist, each of his novels has attracted major praise and received numerous awards and honours. He also has written and directed feature films. He won the 2014 Man Booker Prize for The Narrow Road to the Deep North.
The New York Review of Books described Flanagan as "among the most versatile writers in the English language. That he is also an environmental activist and the author of numerous influential works of nonfiction makes his achievement all the more remarkable."
Flanagan wrote four non-fiction works before moving to fiction, works he has called "his apprenticeship". One of these was an autobiography of 'Australia's greatest con man', John Friedrich, which Flanagan ghost wrote in six weeks to make money to write his first novel. Friedrich killed himself in the middle of the book's writing and it was published posthumously. Simon Caterson, writing in The Australian, described it as "one of the least reliable but most fascinating memoirs in the annals of Australian publishing".
His first novel, Death of a River Guide (1994), is the tale of Aljaz Cosini, river guide, who lies drowning, reliving his life and the lives of his family and forebears. It was described by The Times Literary Supplement as "one of the most auspicious debuts in Australian writing". His next book, The Sound of One Hand Clapping (1997), which tells the story of Slovenian immigrants, was a major bestseller, selling more than 150,000 copies in Australia alone. Flanagan's first two novels, declared Kirkus Reviews, "rank with the finest fiction out of Australia since the heyday of Patrick White".
His most recent novel is First Person, based loosely on his experience early in his writing career ghost-writing the autobiography of John Friedrich. According to the New Yorker "the novel, with its switchbacking recollections and cyclical dialogue, its penetrating scenes of birth and, eventually, death, is enigmatic and mesmerizing" while the New York Review of Books called it a "tour-de-force".
Flanagan's 2007 essay on logging company Gunns, then the biggest hardwood woodchipper in the world, "Gunns. Out of Control" in The Monthly, first published as "Paradise Razed" in The Telegraph (London), inspired Sydney businessman Geoffrey Cousins' high-profile campaign to stop the building of Gunns' two billion dollar Bell Bay Pulp Mill. Cousins reprinted 50,000 copies of the essay for letterboxing in the electorates of Australia's environment minister and opposition environment spokesperson. Gunns subsequently collapsed with huge debt, its CEO John Gay found guilty of insider trading, and the pulp mill was never built. Flanagan's essay won the 2008 John Curtin Prize for Journalism.
In 2015 he published Notes on an Exodus, on the Syrian refugee crisis, arising out of visiting refugee camps in Lebanon, Greece, and meeting refugees in Serbia. The book also features sketches made by the noted Australian artist Ben Quilty, who travelled with Flanagan to meet the refugees.
Flanagan is an ambassador for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, to which he donated his $40,000 prize money on winning the Australian Prime Minister's Literary Prize in 2014. A painting of Richard Flanagan by artist Geoffrey Dyer won the 2003 Archibald Prize. A rapid on the Franklin River, Flanagan's Surprise, is named after him.
Flanagan lives in Hobart, Tasmania with his wife, Majda (née Smolej) and has three daughters, Rosie, Jean and Eliza.
His life was the subject of a BAFTA award-winning BBC documentary, Life After Death.