Gulag parable

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 February, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 25 February, 2005, 12:00am

The Tyrant's Novel

(Sceptre) by Thomas Keneally

Alan Sheriff is in custody in one of the 'double-walled gulags' of a supposedly progressive country. The nationality of his captors is never explained, although Keneally mentions that there are other detention centres in the country - as there are in Australia. Sheriff fled an unidentified repressive Middle Eastern nation while it was at war. The leader of his homeland, Great Uncle (read: Saddam Hussein) had asked Sheriff to write a novel in his name within 30 days. Although his characters are Middle Eastern, Keneally uses western names to remind readers from that part of the world that refugees are ordinary people.