The grandson of illiterates, a school drop-out, river guide, builder’s labourer and passionate campaigner for conservation: Richard Flanagan is not your typical novelist. His most recent book ‘The Narrow Road to the Deep North’ won the 2014 Man Booker Prize. A love story set amidst the horror of the Thai-Burma Death Railway during World War Two, it is also perhaps the most personal of all Flanagan’s novels – dedicated to his father, Arch, whose own experiences in a Japanese POW camp inform much of it. In a poignant twist of fate, Arch Flanagan died on the very day his son finished the manuscript, and the book is both a touching tribute to him, and a heart-rending study of man’s capacity for hope.
In this documentary for the BBC’s ‘Imagine’ series, Alan Yentob journeys through Tasmania with the author, visiting the places that have inspired his six novels. More than just his home, Tasmania and its troubled, often violent past is a place that fuels Flanagan’s writing: his books are crammed with a uniquely Tasmanian blend of the grotesque and the beautiful.
Finally, they travel on to Thailand, to see first-hand the site of Arch’s incarceration and miraculous survival.