Richard Flanagan: Life Support Systems
Many miles to the south of Australia, Tasmania is best known for its island splendour, Indigenous cultures and its rich biodiversity. But since 2014 it has enjoyed a new claim to fame: Hobart-based Booker Prize-winner Richard Flanagan. Following up on his winning novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North, Flanagan has produced The Living Sea of Waking Dreams which draws its lifeblood from the beautiful, fragile ecology of Tasmania.
The narrative is built around 86-year old Francie who’s in the intensive care unit in Hobart’s hospital, her three grown-up children debating whether to administer last rights or fight to keep her alive. But it’s the novel’s setting that gives Francie’s story its vital context. Tasmania is depicted as a place of stunning natural beauty but ravaged by climate crisis: ‘ancient forests vanishing, beaches covered in crap, wild birds vomiting supermarket shopping bags’.
Flanagan talks to writer Dan Richards about weaving the traumatic story of a family together with the wider issue of our collective need to reconnect with our environment.