The new novel from Australia's Booker Prize winning author Richard Flanagan.
What is the truth? In this blistering story of a ghostwriter haunted by his demonic subject, the Man Booker Prize winner turns to lies, crime and literature with devastating effect
Kif Kehlmann, a young penniless writer, is rung in the middle of the night by the notorious con man and corporate criminal, Siegfried Heidl. About to go to trial for defrauding the banks of $700 million, Heidl offers Kehlmann the job of ghostwriting his memoir. He has six weeks to write the book, for which he’ll be paid $10,000.
But as the writing gets under way, Kehlmann begins to fear that he is being corrupted by Heidl. As the deadline draws closer, he becomes ever more unsure if he is ghostwriting a memoir, or if Heidl is rewriting him – his life, his future. Everything that was certain grows uncertain as he begins to wonder: who is Siegfried Heidl – and who is Kif Kehlmann?
As time runs out, one question looms above all others: what is the truth?
By turns compelling, comic, and chilling, this is a haunting journey into the heart of our age.
Review By Ben Hunter
If you win the Man Booker prize, as Richard Flanagan has, there's bound to be some serious pressure on you as you write your next novel. Everyone hates pressure, but some writers thrive on the stuff. First Person is certainly the novel of an author who's thriving.
Kif Kehlmann is a destitute Tasmanian writer who dreams of becoming an author. Siegfried Heidl is a headline-making white collar conman who employs Kif, through a major publisher, to ghostwrite his autobiography. It's a premise drawn from Flanagan's own experience ghostwriting for real life con-man John Friedrich at the dawn of the 90s. Truth rings out from his description of the troubled publishing landscape of the time, sounding a pure comic note in an otherwise dark and psychological narrative.
Kehlmann is given six weeks to write his book and Heidl is doggedly determined to not give away any facts of his underworld life. Kehlmann is both naive and pure while his subject is a deeply corrupting force. Flanagan's portrayal of Heidl seeping into the very core of Kehlmann makes for compelling reading.
Through First Person, Flanagan seriously questions the possibility of there being any truth in literature. It's an engaging and timely conundrum to dwell on and Flanagan's intelligent writing makes it sparkle. This book shows that he's every bit deserving of his accolades.