The question posed by Thomas Keneally’s win was whether Schindler’s Ark was a proper work of fiction or an imaginative piece of non-fiction. Fiction said the judges, resoundingly.
The Australian novelist had already written 16 novels before he started on Schindler’s Ark – later renamed Schindler’s List. He had not intended to write the book but in 1980 went into a shop in Beverly Hills to buy a briefcase. The proprietor, Poldek Pfefferberg, was a Holocaust survivor and one of the Jews saved by the German industrialist Oskar Schindler.
On discovering that Keneally was a novelist, Pfefferberg persuaded him to write the book. Steven Spielberg’s film adaptation went on to win seven Oscars.