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Richard Flanagan

Michael Berkeley's guest is Tasmanian writer Richard Flanagan, with choices of music including Arvo Part, Miles Davis and Jane Birkin.

Richard Flanagan first came to worldwide attention in 2001 with one of the most original titles ever: "Gould's Book of Fish, a Novel in Twelve Fish". It was his third novel, the story of a 19th-century forger sentenced to hard labour off the coast of Van Diemen's Land. Van Diemen's Land, or Tasmania as it's now called, is where Flanagan was brought up, and still lives and writes, publishing every few years a novel that is extraordinarily thought-provoking and original - and very different from all the books before.

His last novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North, about the Death Railway in Burma, won the Booker Prize. Four years on, his new novel First Person is the story of a conman, and it's based on an extraordinary experience of his own. Flanagan dreamed of being a writer but was working as a builder's labourer when he suddenly got a commission: to write the life story of a notorious conman who was facing jail. They spent three weeks together shut up in a publisher's office, and it was frightening to be incarcerated with such a violent murderer. After three weeks the man shot himself, but for Flanagan that trauma was just the beginning of the story - he then had to recreate the criminal's life on the page, making it all up.

Flanagan talks to Michael Berkeley about a life lived on the edge, in the wild beauty of Tasmania, and about his admiration for those who live outside the cultural mainstream, often lone voices of dissent. His music choices reflect this: the Polish Australian composer Cezary Skubiszewski, Arvo Part, John Field, Von Westoff, and Jane Birkin.

Produced by Elizabeth Burke
A Loftus production for BBC Radio 3.

Available now

40 minutes


Music Played

  • Johann Paul Westhoff

    Violin Sonata no.3

    Performer: Daniel Hope. Music Arranger: Christian Badzura. Orchestra: Kammerorchester Berlin. Conductor: Simon Halsey.
  • Serge Gainsbourg

    Valse de Melodie

    Singer: Jane Birkin.
  • John Field

    Nocturne no.6 in F

    Performer: Benjamin Frith.
  • Frédéric Chopin

    Nocturne in F minor, Op.55 no.1

    Performer: Chad Lawson. Music Arranger: Chad Lawson.
  • Mikis Theodorakis

    Hassapiko Dance (Zorbas)

    Orchestra: Orchestre symphonique de Montréal. Conductor: Charles Dutoit. Choir: Montreal Symphony Chorus.
  • Cezary Skubiszewski

    For There is This (The Sound of One Hand Clapping)

    Orchestra: Victorian Philharmonic Orchestra. Conductor: Cezary Skubiszewski.
  • Arvo Pärt

    Vater Unser

    Performer: Arvo Pärt. Singer: Heldur Harry Põlda.
  • Johann Sebastian Bach

    Aria (Goldberg Variations)

    Performer: Glenn Gould.


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