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Thursday, 18 October, 2001, 11:20 GMT 12:20 UK
Carey 'exhilarated' over Booker win
Peter Carey
Australian-born Carey now lives in New York
Peter Carey has said he is "wildly excited and exhilarated" about winning the prestigious Booker Prize 2001 for for his novel True History of the Kelly Gang.

It is the second time the 58-year-old Australian has scooped the prestigious award, having won in 1988 with Oscar and Lucinda.

Ian McEwan
McEwan's novel Atonement got honourable mention
His Booker-winning novel this time round is the fictionalised memoirs of outlaw and Australian folk hero Ned Kelly.

On Thursday Carey told a BBC News Online Forum how it felt to win the literary prize a second time.

"There's a way in which winning it the second time is, emotionally, exactly like winning it the first time.

"I did think for a long time, all through yesterday, through the dinner, that I wasn't excited, I wasn't nervous - I was so cool, you wouldn't believe it.

"But when I heard the name and stood up it was like I'd never won it - it was exhilarating.

'Lies and silences'

"I've spoken to my Australian publisher and everyone's tremendously excited."

He said he was not sure exactly what compelled him to write about the figure, but it was to do with his country's past.

"This book is about filling in lies and silences and Australian history is like that and we keep going back to the past to correct it," he said.

"The past is about the present and that's why its important."


However he acknowledged that literary prizes were not uppermost in the minds of his fellow New Yorkers since the attacks of 11 September.

"In comparison to what's happening in New York this is trivial," he said.

Carey's wife survived after being in one of the towers of the World Trade Center when the first aircraft crashed into the building.

book cover
Kelly is portrayed as an orphan, thief and hero
He also thanked his wife for persuading him to write the winning book when he was "foolishly trying to write a novel about New York, which I love but know nothing about really".

The novel focuses on Ned Kelly, who remains an ambiguous figure in Australian history.

An orphan and champion of the poor, he was also a thief and was hanged for murder.


Carey grew up in a small town near Melbourne, Victoria, but is now based in New York.

Carey had been favourite to win the prize, but the judges gave honourable mention to Ian McEwan's novel Atonement when announcing the winner.

Six novels were shortlisted for the 21,000 prize for the best full-length novel of the year written in English by a British, Commonwealth or Irish novelist.

The others on the shortlist this year were:

  • Ian McEwan - Atonement
  • Andrew Miller - Oxygen
  • David Mitchell - Number9Dream
  • Rachel Seiffert - The Dark Room
  • Ali Smith - Hotel World

    McEwan's novel won the BBC People's Booker - voted for by members of the public by telephone and online.

    The Booker jury was made up of leading literary critics, writers and academics and chaired by Lord Kenneth Baker, who warmly praised the winner.

    "It is a magnificent story of the early settler days in Australia, expressed through the unforgettable voice of a vilified man who came to stand for more than he knew," he said.

    Established in 1968, the Booker is renowned for propelling authors and books into the mainstream and sending their novels shooting into the bestseller lists.

    The BBC's David Sillito
    "After winning, Peter Carey said he felt as though he had been run over by a truck"
    Peter Carey
    "Ned Kelly is the convict seed"
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