Peter Carey

I first heard of Peter Carey while studying Commonwealth Fiction at University.

Carey is an Australian native who up until 1976 made his living primarily in the advertising industry. He wrote when he was not working and eventually 1976 was able to start writing full-time.
I read his book The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith (1994) about ten years ago. I just finished his latest novel His Illegal Self (2008) and find his style to be mesmerizing and his themes consistent. (http://petercareybooks.com/)

Carey does not mince his words nor does he ‘show’ us- he tells us and our imagination is left to conjure the dialogue. Common to both books Carey seems to have a sordid relationship with human bodies, textures, smells and the unpleasant aspects of life.

In The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith the protagonist is born with a cognitive memory and terrible disfigurement. His body is a great source of perpetual pain as is his memory. In His Illegal Self, Che is taken from his privileged reality and thrust into a word of underground, overgrown organic textures, smells and grimy people. In both books the protagonist is on a mission to discover their father; Tristan who he is and Che where he is. Both novels take place in worlds that are reminiscent of perhaps reality but certainly are never established, mostly just suggested. It is these make-believe worlds that stimulate the reader to exercise their own memory banks and grasp at certain similarities within actuality whether in the past, present or it has even been suggested- the future.

Carey’s writing is stimulating in that it prods the reader every word of the way. It is not writing that requires a dictionary but certainly if not given your undivided attention the novel can and will turn on you within the sentence.

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