Shantaram Article - Redemption in Words

by Gregory David Roberts

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Shantaram Article - Redemption in Words

Unread postby Liz » Tue Jul 26, 2005 3:17 pm

http://www.theage.com.au/news/books/redemption-in-words/2005/07/26/1122143849492.html?oneclick=true

Redemption in words
By Carolyn Webb
July 27, 2005

In the summer of 1977-78, Gregory David Roberts terrorised Melbourne as the Building Society Bandit, robbing 24 businesses at gunpoint to fund a heroin habit.

He escaped from Pentridge, and spent 10 years in hiding, mostly living in Mumbai, India, as a drug and gun runner, counterfeiter and gangster.

Today Roberts is a literary darling. Last Thursday he spoke to an enthralled roomful of English teachers at the Arts Centre, and afterwards signed copies of his internationally bestselling novel, Shantaram, which is closely based on his life in India.

Tonight he will tell more stories of his life at a Federation Square fund-raiser for the Burnet Institute for medical research.

The book, published in 2003, has sold 150,000 copies, and Roberts' star looks set to rise further with Johnny Depp having bought the movie rights. Its American publisher, St Martin's, believes sales could tally more than 1 million with the forthcoming US paperback edition and associated publicity from the movie.

But not everyone is a fan. Crime Victims Support Association president Noel McNamara said it was "an absolute disgrace" that Roberts was profiting from his crimes, and he should donate the earnings to charity.

He said "glorifying" Roberts' experiences in a film was "even worse" than him writing a book. "People watch these things and they think 'this bloke's had an adventurous life', when he's really been just a thug who's terrorised people, running into these building societies and pointing his gun."

Mr McNamara said some of Roberts' robbery victims "would still be having trouble sleeping at a night-time".

Under the name Gregory Peter John Smith, Roberts robbed 16 building societies and eight other businesses before his arrest.

He was serving a 19-year sentence when, on July 22, 1980, he escaped from Pentridge Prison. He eventually settled in Mumbai.

Roberts was captured in Germany in March 1990 and extradited to Australia, where he served seven more years in jail.

He said yesterday he had "chosen not to respond" to Mr McNamara's remarks.

But speaking on Thursday at the opening of the Victorian Association for the Teaching of English state conference, Roberts denied he was out to profit from his crimes.

The 53-year-old said he felt "compelled" to pass on what he had learned about life through his public speaking and his writing.

He now believed he had taken the "easy way out" as a young man by turning to heroin after his marriage collapsed and he lost custody of his young daughter. It had been a "cowardly" way to deal with the situation, when he should have worked hard to provide for his daughter and had faith that he would see her again.

He said that in the past 15 years since his extradition, he had not committed a crime, drunk alcohol, taken drugs or smoked. He is fulfilling a vow to help Mumbai's street people by projects including a mobile medical clinic.

He said writing Shantaram had taught him how greed and cruelty could destroy people. The book, in turn, taught readers there was no glory in crime.

"I'll make it very clear that I'm ashamed of the harmful things I've done in my life, and I regret them, and I live with them every single day," Roberts said.

Roberts' New York agent, Joe Regal, said Roberts was not giving interviews in Melbourne because he was "deep in revisions" to the Shantaram screenplay. "Ideally he will finish it in time for it to be Johnny Depp's next movie, shot in the beginning of next year on location in Mumbai."

Mr Regal said Shantaram is the first of a series. Two yet-to-be-written sequels will follow, and the prequel "will be the last book written".

The Age was a sponsor of the Victorian Association for the Teaching of English state conference.

LINK
www.shantaram.com
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

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Bix
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Unread postby Bix » Tue Jul 26, 2005 4:02 pm

Very interesting find, Liz. It is clear that CVSA president McNamara has not read Shantaram - or else he doesn't believe that people can ever "pay their debt" or be rehabilitated. Jeez!
Live! Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death! ~Auntie Mame

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Unread postby Liz » Tue Jul 26, 2005 9:04 pm

Bix, I have a feeling it is probably the latter. Some people are just not as opened minded as others.
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

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Unread postby gilly » Wed Jul 27, 2005 5:51 am

Thanks Liz...another piece of info that this could be Johnny's next film after Pirates :cool: [He's getting, little by little, closer to Australia...I'm living in hope :cloud9: ]
Life is beautiful.

I have faith in you.

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Unread postby ditz » Wed Jul 27, 2005 7:04 am

Gilly,

You and me both are hoping against hope that they will feel compelled to film the break-out jail scene, where it actually happened.
If nothing we do matters, then all that matters is what we do - JW


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