Three Famines by THOMAS KENEALLY
Starvation and Politics

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Synopsis

Through the lens of three of the most devastating food crises in modern history—the Górta Mor of British-ruled Ireland, the great famine of British-ruled Bengal in 1943, and the string of famines that plagued Ethiopia during the 1970s and 1980s, Booker Prize–winning author Thomas Keneally vividly evokes the terrible cost of mass starvation at the level of the individual who starves and the nation that watches. Famine is widely misunderstood as a completely natural catastrophe. Keneally recounts that while the triggers—crop, pestilence, and drought—are natural, the political and ideological choices that prolong famine are man-made. Government neglect and individual venality, not food shortages, are historically the causes of sustained, widespread hunger.

In Ireland, British authorities ignored the existence of a food crisis while the famished fed on diseased cattle and human remains. In Bengal, where over four million starved to death, Field Marshal Archibald Wavell’s reports of people dying in Calcutta’s streets and demands for relief resulted in little more than a mocking cable from Winston Churchill asking, why, if food was so scarce, hadn’t Gandhi died yet? In Ethiopia, Mengistu Haile Mariam arranged for 400,000 bottles of whisky to ship to Addis Ababa from Britain to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the revolution that put him in power, while one person died every twenty minutes in Korem. These three famines are stark examples of how throughout history, racial preconceptions, administrative neglect, and incompetence have been more lethal than the initiating blights or crop failures. Keneally’s startling narrative history is a sobering warning to the authorities in charge of mercy in our time to stop making choices that feed famine instead of the starving.
 

About THOMAS KENEALLY

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Thomas Keneally began his writing career in 1964 and has published twenty-five novels since. They include Schindler’s List, which won the Booker Prize in 1982, The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, Confederates, and Gossip from the Forest, all of which were shortlisted for the Booker Prize. He has also written several works of nonfiction, including his boyhood memoir Homebush Boy, The Commonwealth of Thieves, and Searching for Schindler. He is married with two daughters and lives in Sydney, Australia.
 
Published August 30, 2011 by PublicAffairs. 338 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences, Travel, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Booker Prize–winning author Keneally (Searching for Schindler: A Memoir, 2008, etc.) examines causes of deadly famines over the past 150 years, terrible times of starvation when the victims became “members of the nation of the famished, who have more in common with each other than with the cultur...

Jul 01 2011 | Read Full Review of Three Famines: Starvation and...

The New York Times

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To demonstrate this thesis, Keneally — best known for his remarkable novel “Schindler’s Ark” — closely studies three of the greatest hungers in history: the Irish potato famine that began in 1845, the Bengal famine that raged in 1943 and 1944, and the Ethiopian famines of the 1970s and ’80s.

Sep 16 2011 | Read Full Review of Three Famines: Starvation and...

The Guardian

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The economist and philosopher Amartya Sen, who lived through the 1943 Bengal famine as a young member of a prominent family that fed the destitute, opened his seminal book Poverty and Famines (1981) with the observation that famine is the phenomenon of some people not having enough food to eat, n...

Sep 23 2011 | Read Full Review of Three Famines: Starvation and...

Publishers Weekly

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In this vivid but muddled comparative history, novelist and journalist Keneally (Schindler's List) studies three great famines and finds weather, insects, and disease less culpable than misguided, punitive, and sometimes murderous government policies.

Jun 20 2011 | Read Full Review of Three Famines: Starvation and...

The Wall Street Journal

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Andrew Roberts reviews "Three Famines: Starvation and Politics" by Thomas
Keneally.

| Read Full Review of Three Famines: Starvation and...

The Wall Street Journal

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Mr. Keneally quotes approvingly the writer Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa, who stated that "there was no famine in the land" and that, as Mr. Keneally puts it, "food was taken out of Ireland to feed domestic needs on the British mainland."

Sep 03 2011 | Read Full Review of Three Famines: Starvation and...

The Sydney Morning Herald

A new book by the University of Hong Kong's Frank Dikotter, Mao's Great Famine, claims that 45 million people were killed between 1958 and 1962.

Oct 19 2010 | Read Full Review of Three Famines: Starvation and...

Macleans

This eye-opening exercise in comparative history by Keneally, an Australian novelist best known for his Booker Prize-winning Schindler’s Ark (later turned into the film Schindler’s List), takes as its starting point Nobel laureate Amartya Kumar Sen’s statement: “No famine has taken place in the h...

Sep 06 2011 | Read Full Review of Three Famines: Starvation and...

The Age

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M/C Anderson

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