Peter Carey Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Peter Carey is best known for his novels; he has also published children’s literature and autobiographical essays.


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Peter Carey is one of the most famous Australian authors worldwide. His collection War Crimes won a New South Wales Premier’s Literary Award, and his novel Bliss (1981) garnered that award and a National Book Council Award. Bliss also won an AWGIE Award and awards for best film and best screenplay from the Australian Film Institute. His novel Illywhacker (1985) received The Age Book of the Year Award, the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award, and a National Book Council Award, as well as a nomination for the Booker McConnell Prize. Carey received the Booker McConnell Prize for Oscar and Lucinda (1988) and the Commonwealth Writers Prize as well as the Australian Miles Franklin Award for Jack Maggs (1997). He has also published a children’s book and a short, autobiographical memoir.

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Peter Carey began his writing career as a short-story writer, and he has a number of collections of stories to his credit, including The Fat Man in History, and Other Stories (1981). He also has written one book for children, the novel The Big Bazoohley, and a film script. Several of his books have been made into films, most successfully Bliss and Oscar and Lucinda. He has written personal accounts of various episodes in his life, including Wrong About Japan: A Father’s Journey with His Son (2005).


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Peter Carey is one of the best-known Australian novelists of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. He helped to bring international attention to the Australian novel, and he is widely acknowledged for his search for a specifically “Australian” identity through his work. The Booker Prize committee, in particular, has recognized this search.

Carey has an impressive array of awards to his credit, both Australian and international. Together with the South African writer J. M. Coetzee, he is the only person to have won the Booker Prize twice (in 1988 for Oscar and Lucinda and in 2001 for True History of the Kelly Gang). He won the 2007 Booker International Prize and was short-listed for the 2008 Best of the Booker competition for Oscar and Lucinda. True History of the Kelly Gang and Jack Maggs won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, and Jack Maggs also won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction.

Among Australian prizes, Carey won the Miles Franklin Award for Bliss, Oscar and Lucinda, and Jack Maggs. For Illywhacker, he won a Ditmar Award for the best Australian science-fiction novel and a Victorian Premier’s Literary Award—the Vance Palmer Prize for Fiction; Illywhacker was short-listed for the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel. Carey also received three honorary degrees.

Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

How does Peter Carey’s work contribute to a new myth of origin for Australia?

Families are very important in Carey’s work. Compare the role of family in True History of the Kelly Gang and Theft.

Carey has lived outside Australia since he wrote The Tax Inspector. Has that affected his view of the country in later novels, and, if so, how?

What is the difference between a loser and a battler, and how is this illustrated in Carey’s novels?

Carey has often referred to other novels in his work. Examine the influence of Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations (1860-1861) on Jack Maggs and of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) on My Life as a Fake.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Callahan, David. “Whose History Is the Fat Man’s? Peter Carey’s The Fat Man in History.” SPAN 40 (1995): 34-53. The best single article on the mood and technique of Carey’s short stories. Occasionally difficult but still worth exploring.

Hassell, Anthony J. Dancing on Hot Macadam: Peter Carey’s Fiction. Brisbane: University of Queensland Press, 1994. One of the Studies in Australian Literature series, this book deals primarily with Carey’s early work on Australian history and identity.

Huggan, Graham. Peter Carey. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996. Huggan, a leading writer on Australian literature, examines Carey’s storytelling abilities and his power to disturb through his storytelling.

Kane, Paul. “Postcolonial/Postmodern: Australian Literature and Peter Carey.” World Literature Today 67, no. 3 (1993): 519-522. An accessible introduction to Carey’s significance within contemporary theoretical debates.

Krassnitzer, Hermione. Aspects of Narration in Peter Carey’s Novels: Deconstructing Colonialism. Lewiston, Pa.: Edwin Mellen Press, 1995. Part of the Salzburg Studies in Literature series, this work examines both Carey’s postcolonialism and postmodernism.

Larsson, Christer. “The Relative Merits of Goodness and Originality”: The Ethics of Storytelling in Peter Carey’s Novels. Uppsala, Sweden: University of Uppsala Library, 2001. Focuses on the themes of good and evil and the merits of storytelling in Carey’s fiction.

Woodcock, Bruce. Peter Carey. 1996. Rev. ed. New York: Manchester University Press, 2003. This revised study considers Carey an entertainer as well as a disturbing postcolonial writer.