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Tuesday, 18 September, 2001, 16:47 GMT 17:47 UK
Peter Carey: Australian heavyweight
Peter Carey: Compared to Garcia Marquez and Luis Borges
This year's Booker winner - the leading Australian author Peter Carey - is a veteran of the Booker Prize and was one of the big hitters on this year's shortlist.

He won in 1988 for his epic Victorian love story Oscar and Lucinda, later made into a film starring Ralph Fiennes and fellow countrywoman Cate Blanchett.

He was also shortlisted for Illywhacker in 1985, the memoirs of a 100-year-old confidence man, or "illywhacker".

His other work includes The Tax Inspector (1991), the investigation of the Catchprice family by a tax inspector who is eight months pregnant.

Ned Kelly
Ned Kelly - became a folk hero after his death aged 25
The Unusual Life of Tristam Smith (1994) tells the story of a boy's search for his father's identity while struggling to come to terms with a birth defect.

He wrote his first novel, Bliss, in 1980, about an advertising executive who has an out-of-body experience, also later turned into a movie.

True History of the Kelly Gang, won the 2001 Commonwealth Writers' Prize earlier this year.

National identity

True History of the Kelly Gang purports to be the confession of the outlaw Ned Kelly.

Kelly, one of Australia's folk heroes, was hanged for murder 120 years ago and is seen in his native country as one of the unsuspecting fathers of nationalism.

Carey once said: "Almost everything I have ever written has been concerned with questions of 'national identity', a seemingly old-fashioned project that seems, to me, an alarmingly modern concern."

His work has been compared to the writings of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr, Gabriel García Márquez, and Jorge Luis Borges.

True History of the Kelly Gang
Carey's latest novel has won the Commonweath Writers' Prize
If he does not win the Booker this year, his trophy shelf may well breathe a figurative sigh of relief.

Among several other awards, he won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize in 1998 for Jack Maggs, a tale of a convict returning home to England and billed as a re-imagining of Charles Dickens' Great Expectations.

He gained notoriety in the UK press for refusing a resulting invitation to meet the Queen.

Carey was born in 1943 and grew up in the small town of Bacchus Marsh, near Melbourne, Victoria.

His father sold cars, an occupation that features heavily in Illywhacker and The Tax Inspector.

Surreal

After dropping out of university in Melbourne, where he studied chemistry for a year, he took a job in advertising copywriting for Volkswagen, working in Melbourne, Sydney and London.

He says it was there he met writers and painters for the first time.

He began writing surreal short stories, strongly influenced by Borges, Beckett and Kafka. These made up his first book, The Fat Man in History, published in 1974.

His Booker win with Oscar and Lucinda meant he could give up his day job.

In 1990 he moved to New York with his wife and son, and it was here that he finished The Tax Inspector, and his later work.

He still lives in New York with his family, and teaches creative writing at the city's university.

See also:

17 Jan 00 | Asia-Pacific
Ned Kelly's skull resurfaces
31 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Australian legend goes under the hammer
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