Douglas Kennedy – Keynote Speaker

Internationally acclaimed novelist, France’s most celebrated modern American writer

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Specialist Subjects

  • Doubt and Its Uses
  • Is Every Life A Novel: How To Use Your Own Narrative In A Creative Way
  • The Uses of Adversity
  • On The Neccessities (And Pleasurs) of Discipline
  • Thinking About The Future


  • English


Douglas Kennedy is the author of twenty-seven books.

Born in Manhattan, he is that rare construct: a native New Yorker. In 1977 he moved to Dublin and founded a small theatre company. Eighteen months later he was put in charge of The Abbey Theatre’s studio, The Peacock. Over the five years that he ran the theatre, he began to write late at night – and has his first play accepted by BBC Radio in 1980. Other plays followed, and he left The Peacock in 1983 to become a full-time writer. More plays followed before he published his first book, Beyond the Pyramids: Travels in Egypt in 1988 – the same year that he moved to London. Two more narrative travel books followed before he published his first novel, The Dead Heart, in 1994.

His second novel, The Big Picture, was a critically acclaimed international bestseller – for which received a W.H. Smith Award in the UK. It was later filmed with great success as L’Homme Qui Voulait Vivre Sa Vie, directed by Eric Lartigau and starring Romain Duris. His subsequent nineteen novels have included such notable successes as The Pursuit of Happiness, The Woman in the Fifth (filmed by Pawel Pawlikowki with Ethan Hawke and Kristin Scott Thomas), Leaving the World, The Moment, The Great Wide Open, and Flyover. He has also written a book of philosophy, a series of novels for children (illustrated by Joann Sfar), and a forthcoming book examining his relationship to the modern American condition, Abroad at Home.

His books have been translated into twenty-three languages. He is the most read American writer of modern fiction in France – where his work has sold over eight million copies and he is a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.. Noted as a great narrative storyteller his fiction is both immensely readable and deeply serious in intent – exploring the anxiety of modern life, the complexities of family and homeland, and the way that we are the architects of our own cul-de-sacs. He is very much a writer who brilliantly chronicles the way we live now.

Popular Talks by Douglas Kennedy

Doubt and Its Uses

Why is doubt a cornerstone of the human condition… and, as such, why is it something with which we all grapple? Could it be that how we deal with self-doubt (and the very genuine, universal fear that we will be found wanting) determines so much in how the story of our lives plays out? Writers must confront doubt daily – given the solitary nature of this métier. But who doesn’t struggle with doubt? And could it be that the biggest doubt we all have in life is ourselves? Which, in turn, means that using doubt in a positive way is a means by which we can negotiate with that voice in all our heads which (from time to time) whispers: you are not good enough… you are a fraud. Confronting doubt is something we all need to master.

Is Every Life A Novel: How To Use Your Own Narrative In A Creative Way

We all have a story. And like all stories it is full of twists and turns: of successes and setbacks; of good luck and misfortune; of moments of exhilaration countered by those of true grief. We all (by and large) pursue happiness – but, in truth, it’s just a here-and-there event. And none of us avoids the darker side of human existence: disappointment, loss, tragedy. As such, might it be worth investigating the fact that every life is its own novel… and one which is predicated on so much: the socio-economic realm into which we are born, the emotional architecture of our parents, the opportunities we can obtain…. or are denied… in our formative years. After that, as we find our way into adulthood, could it be that the choices we make define the trajectory of our ongoing lives? Using my work as a novelist -examining the way that everyone tries to find a way forward amidst all that happens to us (and how we are often making choices that might be best for us… or alternatively counter-intuitive – creates the arc that is our narrative. And how the question with which we endlessly wrestle comes down to four simple words: what do we want?

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