The Last Days of a Famous Mime Summary

Peter Carey


(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

A mime arrives in an Australian airport for a performance tour of the country. The mime is famous throughout Europe for his ability to invoke terror in his audiences, but little is known about him in Australia. Members of the media greet him at the airport and ask him what is in the package he is carrying. He replies that it contains a blue string and explains that “The string is a prayer I am always praying.” The Australian media fail to understand the significance of his answer: that the blue string helps him overcome his despair, a personal condition familiar to his audiences in Europe but not to those in Australia. They photograph the package anyway and record the enigmatic response. The next day, the mime’s comments and pictures of the package appear in the newspapers. The novelty of the prayer string captivates the public, and soon packages of blue string are sold as souvenirs before the mime’s performances.

At the beginning of the tour, the mime draws large and enthusiastic audiences. Using only movements and facial expressions, the mime creates such terror that audiences panic, frightened by his uncanny ability to imitate life in its most harrowing state. During the performances, they leave their seats and rush into the outside world for reassurance, but they always return for more of his art: They devour “the terror like brave tourists eating the hottest curry in an Indian restaurant.” When a critic in a provincial town questioned the...

(The entire section is 550 words.)