‘White Ravens’ in a World of Violence: German Connections in Thomas Keneally’s Fiction


Among the cultural 'hetero-images' in Australian writing of the past four decades, German images have, for obvious reasons, been mostly unfavourable. They have usually emphasised the pretensions of 'high culture' and the incomprehensible transition from civilisation to the barbarity of Nazism. By and large, German-speaking societies have been set off as 'the others', representing what Australians do not want to be. In a sense, therefore, Keneally's German images are an exception. Two major characters in his novels are Germans, Matthias Erzberger in Gossip from the Forest (1975) and Oskar Schindler in Schindler's Ark (1982), and so are some minor characters in A Family Madness (1985). Linking up with Keneally's preoccupation with war, violence and times of crisis, and with individual behaviour in extreme situations, the two world wars provide the historical context for his German images: the armistice after the First World War in Gossip, events of the Second in the other novels.

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Published 1 October 1989 in Volume 14 No. 2. Subjects: German literature & writers, Imagery, Literary influences, Writer's works, Tom Keneally.

Cite as: Petersson, Irmtraud. ‘‘White Ravens’ in a World of Violence: German Connections in Thomas Keneally’s Fiction.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 14, no. 2, 1989, doi: 10.20314/als.0bdb6b4212.