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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.
In a detention camp where he is neither granted asylum nor readied to be sent back to his native land, a detainee bides his time. He insists on being called Alan Sheriff, a westernization of his given name; he was born in a country that had once been a friend to the United States but is now its enemy. Little else is known about Sheriff until a writer comes to interview him. Sheriff decides that the time is right to tell his visitor his story and embarks on the unraveling of events that have led to his current state with extraordinary detail—the basis of which forms this novel within a novel.
Sheriff is a celebrated novelist in a country in which its brutal leader orders Sheriff to ghostwrite a work of fiction: an uneasy combination of invention, autobiography, and polemic—the very publication of which would overturn Western sanctions and shame the United States. The deadline is impossible, but the government enforcers guard his house and stalk his every move. It is not long before Sheriff becomes the tyrant’s caged canary, as he races against the deadline that threatens to cost him everything and everyone he holds dear.
In a work reminiscent of the classic Fahrenheit 451, Thomas Keneally has written a dazzling story of a man caught between the demands of his government and his impulse to run for his life. Provocative and possibly prophetic, The Tyrant’s Novel is a literary achievement inspired by recent history’s most intriguing events and characters. Here, Keneally once more combines, as he did in Schindler's List, his fictional talent with his engagement in world politics.