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The Idealist

320 pages
Paperback, 21 x 14.8 cm
Published September 2023
ISBN 9781922725783

The Idealist

Nicholas Jose

Shortlisted for the Age Book of the Year

The new work of fiction by the celebrated novelist and essayist Nicholas Jose, set against the turmoil of the independence movement in East Timor.

Set in Australia, East Timor and Washington in the lead up to the East Timorese independence referendum in 1999, The Idealist is a novel which explores the entanglement of private and public life: it is a political mystery, a portrait of a marriage, a reflection on friendship, and a study of a personality as it breaks down under pressure.

Jake, an Australian defence analyst, is torn between his support for the people of East Timor, whose commitment to independence in the face of mounting violence he has experienced personally, and his responsibility for and complicity in the actions of his government. When he is found dead in the garage of his Washington home, his wife Anne is determined to see justice done. Atmospheric, tender, subtle in its portrayal of conflicting allegiances, The Idealist takes the reader into the space of the personal and political with a rare artistry.

SHORTLISTED: The Age Book of the Year – Fiction 2024

[The Idealist] is not only a stylish addition to [Jose’s] oeuvre, but to the literature of Australian interactions with Indonesia…Jose has spent time as a diplomat. He knows the language and psychology of these circles. He has written an intelligent and compelling political novel that draws its sensibility from the Cold War and has some of the stern elegance of John Le Carré. The Idealist captures the interplay of masculine rivalry and ambivalent patronage, animated by the peculiar eros that goes with work in “the field”, which seduces Jake and sends him on his fatal course.
Tony Hughes-d’Aeth, The Conversation

Eminently readable and wide-ranging in both style and substance, The Idealist makes a notable contribution to the engagement of Australian literature with the wider world.
Paul Giles, Australian Book Review

Touching on the genres of political thriller, murder mystery, a portrait of a marriage and a psychological study of the ramifications of powerlessness and stress…this is a thriller for lovers of literary fiction, the beautiful writing turning an unflinching gaze on a shameful era of our nation’s history that is rarely explored in fiction.
Rachael Mead, In Review

Praise for Nicholas Jose:

Making a thriller work calls on considerable reserves of discipline, ingenuity and skill. To do it as well as Jose does requires even more: tact, wit, sensitivity and (above all) an ability to breathe life into the conventions of an often inflexible genre.
Andrew Riemer, Sydney Morning Herald

Always, Jose writes beautifully and sensuously.
Financial Times

Jose has a large capacity for feeling at home in a plurality of places. His writing creates a dialogue between Western modernity and older Taoist and Aboriginal spiritualities: that human effort is always subject to unforeseen changes of plan, so that wider patterns are only partly known and perceived as fragments, and so destiny can only be controlled partially.
Adam Aitken

About the Author

Nicholas Jose

Nick Jose has published seven novels, and three collections of short stories. His non-fiction includes Chinese Whispers: Cultural Essays and an acclaimed memoir, Black Sheep: Journey to Borroloola. He has written widely on contemporary Asian and Australian culture. He was Cultural Counsellor at the Australian Embassy Beijing from 1987-1990 and Chair of Australian Studies at Harvard University. He is an Adjunct Professor in the Writing and Society Research Centre, Western Sydney University and Emeritus Professor of English and Creative Writing at The University of Adelaide.

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SHORTLISTED: The Age Book of the Year – Fiction 2024


Dynasties and dynamism’ – ABC RN Conversations

Nicholas Jose talks Peter Goers ABC Adelaide’s SA Evenings (from 1hr 29min)


‘Being a writer in Adelaide’ Bibliofile, September 2023

Related News

Transcript: Jennifer Mills’s launch speech for The Idealist by Nicholas Jose

‘[Jose] is a serious writer with an internationalist outlook that is not extractive – a rare thing – but eternally curious…His work often has a sense of mystery that shows his generosity also extends to readers. He’s not rushing to solve the world for us, or explain it, but opening our eyes to its wonders and complexities.’

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Nicholas Jose: a note on The Idealist

‘Timor-Leste celebrated its twentieth anniversary as an independent nation in 2022. A new generation is writing their story now, with the future as a destination for hopes and dreams. It can be a happier ending. Let’s help with that.’ 

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