Schindler's List Critical Overview
by Thomas Keneally

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Critical Overview

(Novels for Students)

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When it was published in Britain in 1982 as Schindler's Ark, Keneally's book was widely and prominently reviewed. Even before its publication, it had been short-listed for the Booker McConnell Prize, and there had been some mention in pre-publication reviews that the documentary style of the book made it an unusual contender for a fiction prize. The day after its official publication, Schindler's Ark won the Booker Prize, and a storm of controversy erupted. A number of critics felt that its deficiency in the fictional aspect undermined its quality. As Michael Hulse explains in "Virtue and the Philosophic Innocent: The British Reception of Schindler's List" in Critical Quarterly, Steven Glover, writing in the Daily Telegraph compared it to a "tiresome television documentary" and D. J. Enright in the Times Literary Supplement found it to be on a par with second-rate adventure-style documentaries and "not a great literary novel." Many reviewers spent a great deal of time wondering whether the book was a novel, although others praised Keneally's considerable literary skill. One reviewer, Marion Glastonbury of the New Statesman, objected to the portrayal of Schindler as a man of virtue. Despite the controversy, however, Schindler's Ark was popular among British readers, selling forty thousand copies in two months.

American reviewers of Schindler's List also noted the book's documentary style but were less concerned with whether its nonfictional status meant it was or was not a novel. Paul Zweig in the New York Times declared that Keneally "has chosen a subject that art can contain," and numerous other writers found the work to be "remarkable." Schindler's List was soon an international bestseller, and the book cemented Keneally's status as a major writer and Australia's most prominent author.

Universal Pictures obtained rights for Steven Spielberg to turn Keneally's book into a film soon after it was published, but it did not reach development for about ten years. Before the release of the film, Keneally's book continued to have modest success and sales. There was some interest in the work among academics, and a handful of articles appeared that discussed its status as fiction and the character of Schindler. However, after the release of the film version of

(The entire section is 543 words.)