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y The Narrow Road to the Deep North single work   novel   historical fiction  
Issue Details: First known date: 2013... 2013 The Narrow Road to the Deep North
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AbstractHistoryArchive Description

'A novel of the cruelty of war, and tenuousness of life and the impossibility of love.

'August, 1943. In the despair of a Japanese POW camp on the Thai-Burma death railway, Australian surgeon Dorrigo Evans is haunted by his love affair with his uncle's young wife two years earlier. Struggling to save the men under his command from starvation, from cholera, from beatings, he receives a letter that will change his life forever.

'This savagely beautiful novel is a story about the many forms of love and death, of war and truth, as one man comes of age, prospers, only to discover all that he has lost.' (Publisher's blurb)

Reading Australia

This work has Reading Australia teaching resources.

Unit Suitable For

AC: Senior Secondary (Literature Unit 3)

Flanagan’s profound novel ambitiously explores the significance of literature and the ways in which texts, as cultural products, represent ideas as well as past events. The Narrow Road To The Deep North poetically records the experiences of Australian prisoners of war in the Japanese labour camps on the Thai-Burma railway. The central character, Tasmanian surgeon Dorrigo Evans, remembers his affair with Amy, his uncle’s wife. Alongside this love story, the stories of multiple characters are presented which sensitively document this period of Australia’s history, whilst also examining the nature of memory. The novel is based on the shared experiences of those in the camps and the author’s father, Arch Flanagan, to whom the book is dedicated, and the text presents opportunities for students to consider the tensions between documenting past events and crafting fiction.

Notes

  • Dedication: For prisoner san byaku san ju go (335)
  • Epigraph:

    A bee

    staggers out

    of the peony.

    – Basho

  • Epigraph: Mother, they write poems. -Paul Celan
  • Other formats: Also sound recording; large print; ebook

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

    • Sydney, New South Wales,: Random House , 2013 .
      4695875357608800097.jpg
      Cover image courtesy of publisher.
      Extent: 480p.
      Note/s:
      • Publication date: 23 September 2013
      ISBN: 9781741666700
    • London,
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      England,
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      c
      United Kingdom (UK),
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      Western Europe, Europe,
      :
      Chatto and Windus ,
      2014 .
      9204154548041508837.jpg
      Cover image courtesy of publisher.
      Extent: 448p.
      Note/s:
      • Publication date: 03 July 2014
      ISBN: 9780701189051
    • North Sydney, North Sydney - Lane Cove area, Sydney Northern Suburbs, Sydney, New South Wales,: Random House Australia , 2014 .
      8827421877792129645.jpg
      This image has been sourced from online.
      Extent: 467p.
      Note/s:
      • Published November 2014
      ISBN: 9780857980366
    • North Sydney, North Sydney - Lane Cove area, Sydney Northern Suburbs, Sydney, New South Wales,: Random House Australia , 2014 .
      381526405111472686.jpg
      This image has been sourced from online.
      Extent: 496p.
      Edition info: Commemorative Edition
      Note/s:
      • Published: 1st December 2014
      ISBN: 9780857987921
    • London,
      c
      England,
      c
      c
      United Kingdom (UK),
      c
      Western Europe, Europe,
      :
      Vintage ,
      2015 .
      8434093239156605766.jpg
      This image has been sourced from online.
      Extent: 448p.p.
      Note/s:
      • Published 26 March 2015.
      ISBN: 9780099593584
    • New York (City), New York (State),
      c
      United States of America (USA),
      c
      Americas,
      :
      Vintage International ,
      2015 .
      694142384872964459.jpg
      This image has been sourced from online.
      Extent: 397p.p.
      ISBN: 9780804171472, 0804171475
Alternative title: De smalle weg naar het verre noorden
Language: Dutch
    • Antwerp, Belgium, Western Europe, Europe,: De Bezige Bij , 2014 .
      7229743052354676829.jpg
      This image has been sourced from online.
      Extent: 388p.
      Note/s:
      • Published 16 August 2014
      ISBN: 9789085425700, 9085425700

Works about this Work

Wandering in Intersectional Time : Subjectivity and Identity in Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North Victoria Genevieve Reeve , 2016 single work criticism
— Appears in: TEXT : Special Issue Website Series , no. 34 2016;
'Using hokku poet Bashō’s aesthetics of wandering, as defined by Thomas Heyd, I argue that, by detailing the excruciating pointlessness of work undertaken according to commands that take little or no account of their feasibility, Richard Flanagan’s novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North (which takes its title from Bashō) transforms the features of this aesthetics into the lived experience of prisoners of war on the ‘line’. In doing so, Flanagan transfers Bashō’s aesthetics into a represented actuality through the privileging of subjectivity over identity and the dissolution of the body on the line. The three prongs to Bashō’s aesthetics are found in Flanagan’s novel. In this, Flanagan is identifying the complexity of meanings evident in the terminology of such aesthetics, rendering what appears positive in the context of Bashō’s poetry negative in its practical application as this is articulated through the prisoners’ wartime experiences. Rather than being formative, Flanagan’s novel suggests wartime experience has a complexly ‘opposite’ effect. This is apparent in the complications of identity represented in postwar terms as a disunity (rather than a coherent unity), as articulated through the use of spatial metaphors that reverse the formative intensities of subjectivity and body through symbolic acts of dispersal and dissolution.' (Publication abstract)
Winning Storeys Take Out Top Five Aussie Bestsellers Jason Steger , 2016 single work
— Appears in: The Age , 8 January 2016; (p. 8)
12 Books Every Australian Should Read Anna Vallen , 2016 single work essay
— Appears in: Australian Geographic [Website] , February 2016;
'Take a literary journey to the interior with these 12 must-read Australian books, representing a cross section of Australian literature, meditating on landscape, history and what makes us Australian.'
The Narrow Road to the Deep North and the De-Sacralisation of the Nation Lars Jensen , 2016 single work criticism
— Appears in: Le Simplegadi , no. 16 2016; (p. 74-85)

Richard Flanagan’s novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North represents yet another addition to the catalogue of Australian war experience literature. The awards and accompanying praise the novel has earned since its release in 2013 reflects a widespread appreciation of its ability to reimagine Australia in a saturated terrain. Flanagan’s novel can be read as a critique of the rise of militant nationalism emerging in the wake of Australia’s backing of Bush’s ‘war on terror’ and the idea that the arrival of boat refugees requires a military and militant response. This article discusses how the novel’s shift from battle heroics to the ordeal of POWs in the Thai jungle represents a reimagining – away from the preoccupation with epic battles – but not necessarily a challenge to the overriding emphasis on baptism of fire narratives as the only truly national narratives.

Full Text PDF

Enemies of Honor : Heroes and Prisoners of War in Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Tom Keneally’s Shame and the Captives Fiona Duthie , 2016 single work criticism
— Appears in: Antipodes , June vol. 30 no. 1 2016; (p. 159-171)
'The heroism of the Australian soldier abroad is a subject often explored by Australian writers. Representations have fluctuated somewhat from the time of the First World War, but tales of valor and stoic endurance have elicited a potent fascination from this time. Among many examples is Frederic Manning's The Middle Parts of Fortune (1929), throughout which, despite the hardships and privations of the Western Front and the various enticements to accept commissions elsewhere, the protagonist prefers the lot of the everyday soldiers, among whom heroism is "a common thing" (94). The serving men are presented not as types but as individuals, but each is secure in the conviction that "one must not break" (13). The tradition continues in A. B. Facey's memoir of Gallipoli, A Fortunate Life (1981), in which "despite the fear men mostly took everything that was thrown at them" (260) and bonded together in "love and trust" (278), and more recently in Christopher Koch's Highways to a War (1995), which tells of a combat cameraman who joins the struggle against the Khmer Rouge. Mike Langford is athletic and charming, he is preoccupied with "the outcast and the vulnerable" (159), and he saves many lives ultimately at the cost of his own. He is portrayed indisputably as a "hem" (342). Clam Rhoden argues that Australian war literature "diverges from its international counterparts chiefly, but not solely, because most Australian accounts use a classical heroic tradition that others have abandoned for a disillusioned style of narration." Similarly, Robin Gerster notes that Australian writers are "critical of war but almost blindly impressed by warlike achievements" (257). However, there has long been a definitive thread of dissent interwoven into the heroic tradition, in which Martin Boyd's When Blackbirds Sing (1962) is one of the most notable examples. In Boyd's novel, Dominic Langton feels "a common humanity" with the German soldiers he is required to destroy (75). He sees "suicidal futility" where others perceive a glorious defense of civilization (114). Similarly, David Maloufs Fly Away Peter (1982) describes senseless carnage in another country's war. Like Langton, however, Jim Saddler sees the Germans as individuals, as "something more than the enemy" (80).' (Introduction)
Poetry without a Shred of Pity Geordie Williamson , 2013 single work review
— Appears in: The Weekend Australian , 28-29 September 2013; (p. 21)

— Review of The Narrow Road to the Deep North Richard Flanagan 2013 single work novel
Light and Shadow Peter Conrad , 2013 single work review
— Appears in: The Monthly , October no. 94 2013; (p. 60-65)

— Review of The Narrow Road to the Deep North Richard Flanagan 2013 single work novel ; Eyrie Tim Winton 2013 single work novel
Barometer of Torment Morag Fraser , 2013 single work review
— Appears in: The Sydney Morning Herald , 12 October 2013; (p. 30-31)

— Review of The Narrow Road to the Deep North Richard Flanagan 2013 single work novel
Elusive Nobility James Ley , 2013 single work review
— Appears in: Australian Book Review , October no. 355 2013;

— Review of The Narrow Road to the Deep North Richard Flanagan 2013 single work novel
The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan Romy Ash , 2013 single work review
— Appears in: The Guardian Australia , 29 October 2013;

— Review of The Narrow Road to the Deep North Richard Flanagan 2013 single work novel
A Ragged Pair of Claws Stephen Romei , 2013 single work column
— Appears in: The Weekend Australian , 21-22 September 2013; (p. 19)
Freeing My Father Richard Flanagan , 2013 single work column
— Appears in: Good Weekend , 21 September 2013; (p. 24-25) The Canberra Times , 21 September 2013;
War through Prism of Love Blanche Clark , 2013 single work interview
— Appears in: The Courier-Mail , 21-22 September 2013; (p. 19)
A Ragged Pair of Claws Stephen Romei , 2013 single work column
— Appears in: The Weekend Australian , 12-13 October 2013; (p. 19)
This One's Personal Phil Brown , 2013 single work column
— Appears in: Brisbane News , 16-22 October no. 953 2013; (p. 12)
Last amended 30 Jan 2017 15:55:14
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  • Burma-Thailand Railway,
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    Burma,
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    Southeast Asia, South and East Asia, Asia,
  • 1943
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