> Skip to content

What is the truth? In this blistering story of a ghost writer haunted by his demonic subject, the Man Booker Prize winner turns to lies, crime and literature with devastating effect

A young and penniless writer, Kif Kehlmann, is rung in the middle of the night by the notorious con man and corporate criminal, Siegfried Heidl. About to go to trial for defrauding the banks of $700 million, Heidl proposes a deal: $10,000 for Kehlmann to ghost write his memoir in six weeks.

But as the writing gets under way, Kehlmann begins to fear that he is being corrupted by Heidl. As the deadline draws closer, he becomes ever more unsure if he is ghost writing a memoir, or if Heidl is rewriting him—his life, his future. Everything that was certain grows uncertain as he begins to wonder: who is Siegfried Heidl—and who is Kif Kehlmann?

By turns compelling, comic, and chilling, First Person is a haunting journey into the heart of our age.

'Powerful, funny, disturbing, moving . . . Flanagan candidly and honestly confronts the raw truths of the writing life and the family life, material and spiritual poverty, love and despair and desire . . . He touches on genuine brilliance.' — The Australian

'A triumph . . . This is a book of demonic possession, of obsession, and there’s a zinger of thought, of expression, in every paragraph. First Person is a parable for the age of Trump’ — Phillip Adams, The Weekend Australian Magazine
‘Flanagan’s most artfully constructed and thematically complex novel to date.’ — Australian Book Review

Reviews

Flanagan’s best work to date.

Readings magazine

. . . a tour de force from one of our greatest contemporary writers.

The Australian Women’s Weekly

The real joy of [First Person] is the intensity of its honesty and its writing. This is a book of demonic possession, of obsession, and there’s a zinger of thought, of expression, in every paragraph.

Phillip Adams, The Australian

Undeniably fascinating . . . a real page turner.

Peter Kenneally, The Sydney Morning Herald

A smart, slippery novel . . . Electric.

Daily Mail

Scathingly funny . . . but this is also a profound and thought-provoking novel that explores the nature of truth, lies, and fiction.

The Bookseller

First Person is studded with sharp, breath-catching observations about the finite nature of life.

Financial Times

As unsettling as it is inspired.

Esquire (UK)

Flanagan has written a Kurtz for our time

Sydney Review of Books

First Person is both comic and frightening. At times I caught a glimpse of Money-era Martin Amis in Flanagan’s satirical asides on the Australian publishing industry… And there’s a hint, too, of an epochal gloom that is redolent of the The Great Gatsby. Yet there are also passages touched with the virtuosity that shone so brightly in The Narrow Road that are pure Flanagan… Studded with sharp, breath-catching observations about the finite nature of life

Financial Times

A black comedy about the unreliability of memory and the warped values of modern publishing . . . the beauty of First Person is the way it blossoms into a much richer novel than that outline scenario suggests . . . readable and thought-provoking

Mail on Sunday

The brilliance of the novel is the portrayal of [Heidl’s and Kif’s] interaction, their clashes and ultimate union . . . Flanagan is the sort of writer you wish you could be.

Otago Daily Times

The narrator of this novel is an angsty aspiring novelist who is summoned from Tasmania to Melbourne for a ghostwriting assignment. His subject, an infamous con man called Ziggy, is infuriatingly evasive. “I have been missing since I was born,” he offers by way of an origin story. As the ghostwriter contends with underworld escapades, farcical publishing-industry posturing, and his gnomic subject, he becomes obsessed with the boundary between fiction and reality. Flanagan cannot quite make Ziggy’s magnetism or sinister influence plausible, but the novel, with its switchbacking recollections and cyclical dialogue, its penetrating scenes of birth and, eventually, death, is enigmatic and mesmerizing.

The New Yorker

Read More

Formats & editions

  • Hardback

    9780143787242

    October 2, 2017

    Knopf Australia

    400 pages

    RRP $39.99

    Online retailers

    • Abbey's Bookshop
    • Amazon
    • Angus & Robertson Bookworld
    • Booktopia
    • Boomerang Books
    • Collins Booksellers
    • Dymocks
    • Books Kinokuniya
    • The Nile
    • QBD
    • Readings
    • Robinsons Bookshop
    Or

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • EBook

    9780143787266

    October 2, 2017

    Random House Australia

    400 pages

    Online retailers

    • iBooks
    • Amazon Kindle
    • Booktopia
    • eBooks
    • Google Play
    • Kobo
  • Paperback

    9780143787259

    July 2, 2018

    Penguin

    400 pages

    RRP $22.99

    Online retailers

    • Abbey's Bookshop
    • Amazon
    • Angus & Robertson Bookworld
    • Booktopia
    • Boomerang Books
    • Collins Booksellers
    • Dymocks
    • Books Kinokuniya
    • The Nile
    • QBD
    • Readings
    • Robinsons Bookshop
    Or

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

Extract

Our first battle was birth. I wanted it in, he wanted it out. All that day and half of the next we argued. He said it had nothing to do with him. Later I began to see his point, but at the time it seemed bloody-mindedness and evidence of an inexplicable obstruction—as though he didn’t actually want any memoir ever written. Of course, he didn’t want a memoir written, but that wasn’t his point. Or the point. But I only realised this later, much later, when I came to fear that the beginning of that book was also the end of me.

Too late, in other words.

Continue Reading
Article
Eyecatchers

Vintage Creative Director Suzanne Dean discusses creating the artwork for First Person.

Awards and Recognition

  • Prime Minister's Literary Awards
    2018
    Shortlisted
    Fiction
  • Voss Literary Prize
    2018
    Longlisted
    Voss Literary Prize

Also by Richard Flanagan