Thomas Keneally's literary achievements have been inspired by some of history's most intriguing events and characters, but in a rare reversal of time his brilliantly imagined new novel takes us into a near future that uncannily is all too familiar.
- New York Times Notable Books of the Year
In this gripping political allegory, the author of Schindler's List examines a more contemporary instance of people trying to survive in the ethical quagmire of totalitarianism. The protagonist is Alan Sheriff, a writer living in a nameless desert country ruled by a despot who styles himself the "Great Uncle" and who bears an uncanny resemblance to a certain recently deposed dictator. A member of the Westernized cultural elite with a fat book contract from Random House, Alan feels himself immune from the political pressures and poverty surrounding him. Then one day he is whisked off to receive a commission from the tyrant himself: to ghostwrite a novel for Great Uncle that will undermine support for sanctions in the West-on a quite literal one-month deadline. Fearing for himself and his friends, torn between remaining in his gilded cage or striking out for a precarious existence abroad, Alan must make agonizing compromises with the truth and his art. Keneally treats this potentially lurid scenario in a realistic and enthralling fashion that fully humanizes all the characters, secret police goons included. In his hands, the clich of the suffering artiste struggling to avoid selling out takes on real depth and pathos. This is anexquisitely wrought study of moral corruption in a convincing-and frighteningly modern-political dystopia. Agent, Amanda Urban. (June) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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Nan A. Talese
December 31, 2003
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Excerpt from The Tyrant's NoveL by Thomas Keneally
I wanted to watch.
This was by far the most bizarre feeling that I have ever experienced in my entire life--all forty-eight years of it. I wanted to watch. What I should have wanted was to kill, to mutilate, to hack with a sharp butcher knife, to maim and claw and slice over and over again until I saw blood and the screaming ended and there were sirens outside the bedroom window. I should have wanted to pull a hidden revolver, one of those slick babies that fits into the palm of your hand and startles unsuspecting victims, from inside of my white Bali bra. I should have wanted to move quietly around the room with a powerful look of raw hatred flashing from my gray eyes and with a multitude of weapons spilling out onto the floor. But no. There would be no flashy pistols or loud cries. This would be not be a simple scenario that involved a sad moment of passion-induced violence, because what I wanted was . . . to watch.
My heart was pounding so rapidly, I could see my blue shirt jumping up and down. Jesus. I could feel it in my throat. It touched the edges of my skin and moved like a snake into my veins until it was in charge of everything I did, who I was, where I was going. It was a red mass of vessels and tissue as soft as a baby's arm, it was a tiger prowling just under the edge of my skin everywhere, creating music--a beating drum, rising smoke, naked dancing women, sweat at midnight, and I wondered for a moment as brief as a winter sunset if they could hear it. It didn't matter if they heard it or if the entire population of the free world heard it, because I could not stop. I edged closer to the door until I could see--them. Them. I know it was a them and not simply a he. It was a couple. A them. A her and a him.
It was the sound that had propelled me up from the basement, where I had been struggling to understand why in God's name or the Goddess's name, or whomever it was controlling my divine destiny, I had never thrown away all those yellowed papers that stuck out in the lines of boxes that had been propped against the side of the wall for the past twelve years. The sound was a kind of tapping, a foreign echo that seduced me like a fine lover. It was not loose change dropping onto the bathroom floor or books falling off a shelf or an alarm clock being pushed off the edge of the dresser on purpose. It was a thump against the wall. Constant. Regular. What the hell? I put down the papers and quietly moved up the basement stairs and stopped just before I could see the edge of the kitchen counter.
I was not supposed to be home. This is why I stood frozen with one hand on the basement wall and the other hanging at my side. Someone was probably trying to break into the house. Why not? Suburban neighborhood. Everyone working. Regular patterns of coming and going. There had to be some good stuff sitting on top of dressers, that's what a savvy intruder might think about this fine neighborhood where some rich slobs drove Saabs and there were hot tubs in many backyards and the kids did not ride a bus to school. If it were a robber he would be sorely disappointed when he found sweat socks, two jogging bras and a wad of Kleenex on top of my dresser. No diamonds or gold bands. No tennis bracelets.