Peter Carey was born in Australia in 1943.
He claims his birthplace of Bacchus Marsh had a population of 4,000. This fact should probably be checked.
He was educated at the local state school until the age of eleven and then became a boarder at Geelong Grammar School. He was a student there between 1954 and 1960 — after Rupert Murdoch had graduated and before Prince Charles arrived.
In 1961 he studied science for a single unsuccessful year at Monash University. He was then employed by an advertising agency where he began to receive his literary education, meeting Faulkner, Joyce, Kerouac and other writers he had previously been unaware of. He was nineteen.
For the next thirteen years he wrote fiction at night and weekends, working in many advertising agencies in Melbourne, London and Sydney.
After four novels had been written and rejected The Fat Man in History — a short story collection — was published in 1974. This slim book made him an overnight success.
From 1976 Carey worked one week a month for Grey Advertising, then, in 1981 he established a small business where his generous partner required him to work only two afternoons a week. Thus between 1976 and 1990, he was able to pursue literature obsessively. It was during this period that he wrote War Crimes, Bliss, Illywhacker, Oscar and Lucinda. Illywhacker was short listed for the Booker Prize. Oscar and Lucinda won it. Uncomfortable with this success he began work on The Tax Inspector.
In 1990 he moved to New York where he completed The Tax Inspector. He taught at NYU one night a week. Later he would have similar jobs at Princeton, The New School and Barnard College. During these years he wrote The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith, Jack Maggs, and True History of the Kelly Gang for which he won his second Booker Prize.
In 2003 he joined Hunter College as the Director of the MFA Program in Creative Writing. Since then he has published five novels: My Life as a Fake, Theft, His Illegal Self, The Chemistry of Tears, and Parrot and Olivier in America (which was a finalist for both the U.S National Book Award and the Man Booker Prize.)
He is at work on a new novel.
‘A new Peter Carey novel is cause for joy.’
‘A magnificent, poetic contemplation of the lying, fakery, and insincerity inherent in the act of artistic creation.’
‘Carey is one of the great story-tellers of our time, the kind who makes you take the phone off the hook, forget the television and ignore the doorbell.’
‘Peter Carey is one of the great writers in English now . . . He seems capable of anything.’
‘You could not tell a story like this. A story like this you could only feel.’
‘I had no doubt that something cruel and catastrophic had happened before I was even born, yet the comte and comtesse, my parents, would not tell me what it was. As a result my organ of curiosity was made irritable and I grew into the most restless and unhealthy creature imaginable – slight, pale, always climbing, prying into every drain and attic of the château de Barfleur.’
‘I had become addicted to the dangers and pleasures of the novel. A novel is a lot more fun. It’s so much more interesting. You go so far beyond what you know and what you think.’Peter Carey, The Art of Fiction No. 188, ISSUE 177, SUMMER 2006