One of Australia's foremost living writers, David Malouf, has told a packed UNSWriting event what inspired him to write his latest novel, Ransom.
The book, which won the Fiction prize at the 2010 Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature, is Malouf's first novel in more than a decade. Ransom is a reimagining of the oldest work of Western literature - Homer's The Iliad.
UNSW Professor Bill Ashcroft led the conversation with Malouf, who described the personal events that prompted him to write Ransom.
Exposed to The Iliad for the first time as 9 year old during World War II, Malouf said the book touched on his anxieties and fears at the time.
"Homer addresses the historical and modern anxieties surrounding the fall of the city," Malouf told the audience. "It was 1943 and I was a school boy waiting for the invading army to come, not realising that Brisbane wouldn't necessarily suffer the same fate as the Trojans."
Sixty years later, on September 11, the world witnessed the Twin Towers crumbling.
"Seeing the physical disintegration of the Twin Towers in real time on television, continued the chain of events that lead to me writing Ransom - this idea of the demise of the city," he said.
The book covers the behind-the-scenes repercussions of war; bruised humanity, forgiveness, love and redemption.
Malouf is surprised by the novel's popularity. After completing the book in 2002 he set it aside, believing Australians wouldn't be interested in a re-telling of Homer's tale.
"I think Ransom's popularity is based on the fact that the book presents itself as a simple story, and story-telling fulfills a primitive human need - to occupy someone else's life which temporarily relieves us of our own," he said.
UNSWriting is hosted by the School of English, Media and Performing Arts in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. It brings together writers, academics and writing students, and fosters partnerships with publishers and the Sydney Writers' Festival.
Next month UNSWriting will present a discussion with American author, Yiyun Li about her novel, The Vagrants.
Watch the full conversation with David Malouf on UNSWTV
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