Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire.
– Thomas Keneally
born in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, October 07, 1935
Life and career
Born in Sydney, Keneally was educated at St Patrick’s College, Strathfield, where a writing prize was named after him. He entered St Patrick’s Seminary, Manly to train as a Catholic priest but left before his ordination. He worked as a Sydney schoolteacher before his success as a novelist, and he was a lecturer at the University of New England (1968–70). He has also written screenplays, memoirs and non-fiction books.
Keneally was known as “Mick” until 1964 but began using the name Thomas when he started publishing, after advice from his publisher to use what was really his first name. He is most famous for his Schindler’s Ark (1982) (later republished as Schindler’s List), which won the Booker Prize and is the basis of the film Schindler’s List. Many of his novels are reworkings of historical material, although modern in their psychology and style.
Keneally has also acted in a handful of films. He had a small role in The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (based on his novel) and played Father Marshall in the Fred Schepisi movie, The Devil’s Playground (1976) (not to be confused with a similarly-titled documentary by Lucy Walker about the Amish rite of passage called rumspringa).
In 1983 he was made an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO). He is an Australian Living Treasure.
He is a strong advocate of the Australian republic, meaning the severing of all ties with the British monarchy, and published a book on the subject Our Republic in 1993. Several of his Republican essays appear on the web site of the Australian Republican Movement.
Keneally is a keen supporter of rugby league football, in particular the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles club of the NRL. He made an appearance in the 2007 rugby league drama film The Final Winter.
In March 2009, the Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd, gave an autographed copy of Keneally’s Lincoln biography to President Barack Obama as a state gift.
Most recently Thomas Keneally featured as a writer in the critically acclaimed Australian drama, “Our Sunburnt Country”.
Thomas Keneally’s nephew Ben is married to the former NSW Premier, Kristina Keneally.