Peter Carey was born in 1943 in Bacchus Marsh, a small town in the State of Victoria, Australia. He began to study Natural Science, but gave that up in order to write. He made a living as a copywriter, first in Melbourne and then in London. After a few years in Europe, he returned to Australia in 1970, where he lived part of the time in an alternative community in the rainforest of Queensland, and part of the time in Sydney, where he had set up an advertising agency. Since 1990 he has lived in New York. To date Carey has published eight novels, which have won several prizes, three short story collections, a children’s book, travel writings, and several filmscripts. After J. M. Coetzee, he is the only author to have received the Booker Prize twice. Peter Carey’s style is characteristically an agglomeration of surreal and real elements, creating a nightmarish atmosphere with macabre-ironic, weird, comic characters, which he himself sees ‘as victims of a particular lifestyle’. His first publication was in 1974 with ‘The Fat Man in History’, a collection of absurd short stories. In his first novel, ‘Bliss'(1981), Harry Joy, an ad-man, dies three times over and wakes up each time into a new life. ‘The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith'(1994) reveals a colourful universe spilling over into copious footnotes, in which the author created two parallel worlds and two languages. The author’s predilection for tall tales is most clearly evident in ‘Illywacker’ (1985), where the divisions between fact and fiction blur (an Illywacker is an Australian expression for someone who brags). In the novel, the character colourfully depicts the scenes of everyday events between the 1800’s and now, which have either genuinely or allegedly occurred. Peter Carey grapples further with the theme of Australia’s colonial past. In another three novels, he focuses on three aspects: the fate of the Aborigines, the plight of the detainees in the penal colonies, and the heritage of Australia’s relationship with Great Britain. The two novels for which he was awarded the Booker Prize, ‘Oscar & Lucinda’ in 1988 and ‘True History of the Kelly Gang’ in 2001 both take place in the 19th century. Carey retells in letter form the myth and real life story of the Australian national hero Ned Kelly, an infamous horse snatcher and police murderer. His most recent novel to have been published is ‘Theft. A Love Story’ (2006). Peter Carey currently lives in New York, where he teaches Creative Writing.
© international literature festival berlin