A new novel by expatriate Australian, Peter Carey, is always a welcome addition to the library shelves. In His illegal self, the privileged son of a radical American student revolutionary arrives in Australia during the 1970s. Dial is a Harvard graduate who flees the United States with the precocious seven year old, Che, with the FBI following in pursuit. They swap the cultural and political centre of the US for the backwater and parochialism of hippie Queensland.Carey holds a mirror to the cultural differences that have shaped Australian-American relations. We see Australia as it is seen through the eyes of an outsider – and not always in a favourable light.
The novel is a love story and tells of the sacrifices one makes for love, and the irreparable damage love may inflict. There is a tender feel to the plight of the innocent lost child who is searching for his parents in a strange land. Salvation is not always found by running away.
In conversation with Mark Rubbo (Readings Bookshop, Carlton) Peter Carey talks about living on the Sunshine Coast in the years before he moved to New York.
Well I lived there in the mid-seventies, but of course I went back there when I was writing the book. I was generally disgusting, stayed in a fancy place on the beach on Hastings Street, ate at Sails every day for lunch. I went beyond Noose, of course, but the dirty little secret is that the world of my book did not exist in the real world of 2006. What you have on the pages of His illegal self are nothing but figments, inventions, things I made up based on imperfect recollection and irresponsible invention. But what a pleasure it was to return to Queensland, to walk on Sunshine beach, to feast on mud crabs and Moreton Bay bugs.