Beyond the Book: Background information when reading The Unknown Terrorist

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The Unknown Terrorist

A Novel

by Richard Flanagan

The Unknown Terrorist by Richard Flanagan X
The Unknown Terrorist by Richard Flanagan
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  • First Published:
    May 2007, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2008, 336 pages

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This article relates to The Unknown Terrorist

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Descended from Irish convicts transported to Van Diemens Land (later renamed Tasmania) during the Great Famine, Richard Flanagan was born in his native island in 1961, the fifth of six children. He spent his childhood in the mining town of Rosebery and left school at sixteen to work as a bush laborer. He later attended the University of Tasmania, graduating with first class honours in 1982. The following year he was awarded a Rhodes Scholar to Oxford University.

He wrote four history books before turning to fiction. The Unknown Terrorist is his fourth novel following Death of a River Guide (1994), The Sound of One Hand Clapping (1997) and Gould's Book of Fish: A Novel in Twelve Fish (2001).

He lives in Tasmania with his wife and three children. He is a keen canoeist, having canoed the Franklin River thirteen times, and was a member of the first expedition to canoe the Jane River and Gordon Gorge (one of his nonfiction works is A Terrible Beauty - History of the Gordon, 1985).

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In his author's note, Flanagan acknowledges that the plot of The Unknown Terrorist owes much to Heinrich Böll's 1974 novel, In Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum (The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum). Böll's novel told the story of an ordinary woman driven to extremes by the persecution of the tabloid press. Interestingly, Böll's story was in turn inspired by Der Verbrecher aus verlorener Ehre (The Criminal by Reason of Lost Honor), which was published in 1786, just before the French Revolution.

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This article relates to The Unknown Terrorist. It first ran in the May 10, 2007 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

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