Novelist Christopher Koch dies of cancer

Voice of a generation

Double Miles Franklin award-winning writer Christoper Koch died yesterday in Hobart, aged 81. Koch, born a Catholic, was diagnosed with cancer last October, a few months before his final novel, Lost Voices, was published, reports The Age.

Koch is probably best known for The Year of Living Dangerously, which was published in 1978 and subsequently filmed by Peter Weir with Mel Gibson as the Australian journalist embroiled in Indonesian political turmoil. 

But he won the Miles Franklin in 1985 for The Doubleman, about which British novelist Graham Greene wrote: ‘Koch has an extraordinary power of evoking place, and I feel now that Tasmania is part of my memory.’ He won again in 1996 for Highways to a War.

As a Catholic - 'not a conventional Catholic' - Koch believed in the existence of evil, represented in his last novel Lost Voices by two characters - escaped convict Roy Griffin and commercial artist Max Fell. 'I think it's quite rare,' he says. 'Major criminals … are not evil; they're human beings gone wrong for a variety of reasons. But it's difficult for people who don't believe in evil to explain Charles Manson or the Moors murders.'

On the other hand, he says, 'I don't believe novels should carry an obvious message. I don't want to write characters you can immediately say are good or bad; as in life, most people are a mixture.' He admires and tries to emulate Dostoyevsky's ability to create sympathy for even the most degenerate characters. 

Lost Voices is dedicated to Frank Devine, the former editor of and a columnist for The Australian and a Catholic who was one of Koch's conservative inner circle until his death three years ago.

FULL STORY Novelist Christopher Koch dies of cancer

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