Christopher Koch

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For the film and television director, see Chris Koch.
Christopher Koch
Born Christopher John Koch
(1932-07-16)16 July 1932
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
Died 23 September 2013(2013-09-23) (aged 81)
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
Occupation Novelist
Language English
Nationality Australian
Alma mater University of Tasmania
Notable works The Year of Living Dangerously
Notable awards Miles Franklin Award (1985, 1996)
Spouse Irene Vilnois (m. 1959; div. 1979)
Robin Whyte-Butler
Children Gareth Koch

Christopher John Koch AO (16 July 1932 – 23 September 2013) was an Australian novelist, known for his 1978 novel The Year of Living Dangerously, which was adapted into an award-winning film. He twice won the Miles Franklin Award (for The Doubleman in 1985, and Highways to a War in 1996). In 1995, he was made an Officer of the Order of Australia for contribution to Australian literature, and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters from his alma mater, the University of Tasmania, in 1990.


Koch was born in Hobart, Tasmania, in 1932. He was educated at Clemes College, St Virgil's College, Hobart High School and the University of Tasmania.[1] After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts with Honours in 1954, he joined the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) as a cadet journalist. He left Hobart to travel in south Asia and Europe, and ended up in London where he worked for several years until he returned to Australia to avoid national service in the British Army.[2] While working in London as a waiter and a teacher, Koch began working on his first novel, The Boys in the Island, which he left with his agent when he returned to Australia.[3]

Koch's first published works were several poems published in The Bulletin and the literary journal Southerly.[1] While back at the ABC as a radio producer, The Boys in the Island was published in the UK, with the positive reviews encouraging Koch to eventually take up writing full-time in 1972.[4] In the early 1960s, Koch was awarded a writing fellowship to Stanford University, where he taught literature and was associated with Ken Kesey (author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest).[3]

Koch's brother, Phillip Koch, reporting for ABC-TV in April 1967 towards the end of the Sukarno era

His novel The Year of Living Dangerously, set in Jakarta during the fall of the Sukarno regime, was made into a film directed by Peter Weir and starring Sigourney Weaver, Mel Gibson and Linda Hunt. The book was loosely inspired by his brother's (Philip Koch) experience as an Australian journalist in Indonesia during that period.

Koch died at his home in Hobart on 23 September 2013, aged 81. He had been diagnosed with cancer twelve months earlier.[2][5]

Personal life[edit]

Koch married his first wife, Irene Vilnois, in 1959. Their son, Gareth Koch (born 1962), is a classical guitarist. He married his second wife, Robin Whyte-Butler, in the late 1990s, and she lived with him in Sydney and Tasmania,[3][6] and was with him when he died in 2013.[2]


Miles Franklin Award The Doubleman, winner 1985
Highways to a War, winner 1996
The Memory Room, longlisted 2008
The Age Book of the Year Award The Year of Living Dangerously, 1978 Imaginative Writing Prize winner; 1978 Book of the Year, joint winner
National Book Council Award for Australian Literature The Year of Living Dangerously, 1979
Colin Roderick Award Out of Ireland, 1999
Victorian Premier's Literary Award Out of Ireland, 2000


  • The Boys in the Island (1958, revised ed, Angus & Robertson, 1974)
  • Across the Sea Wall (Heinemann, 1965)
  • The Year of Living Dangerously (Nelson, 1978)
  • The Doubleman (Chatto and Windus, 1985)
  • Crossing the Gap: a novelist’s essays (Hogarth Press, 1993)
  • Highways to a War (Heinemann, 1995)
  • Out of Ireland (Doubleday, 1999)
  • The Many-Coloured Land: A Return to Ireland (Picador, 2002)
  • The Memory Room (2007)
  • Lost Voices (2012)

Further reading[edit]

  • Noel Henricksen, Island and Otherland: Christopher Koch and his books (Educare, 2003).


  1. ^ a b Koch, Christopher, AustLit.
  2. ^ a b c Romei, Stephen: Miles Franklin Award winning novelist Christopher Koch dead at 81, The Australian, 23 September 2013.
  3. ^ a b c Christopher Koch: The Year of Living Dangerously author opened our eyes to Indonesia, The Sydney Morning Herald, 24 September 2013.
  4. ^ The voice of generations: Christopher Koch dies of cancer, The Age, 23 September 2013.
  5. ^ "Award-winning author Christopher Koch dies aged 81". 23 September 2013. Retrieved 28 October 2016. 
  6. ^ At home with Christopher Koch, The Sydney Morning Herald, 30 September 2012.

External links[edit]