Parrot and Olivier in America
Hamish Hamilton, $49.95 hb, 452 pp
In life and in literature, Peter Carey has been as attracted by the pull of the past as by realities of the present. Then there is his recurrent fascination with the two-country divide, where the lure of exile vies with the sentiment of ‘home’, and the schism between country of choice (or country that ‘chooses’ you) and country of birth means that neither is ever fully suitable.
Such equivocation he attributes to a generational impulse (Carey is now sixty-six). In his case, it meant that ‘growing up in Australia was to inhabit a colonial situation where your real place was somewhere else’. Not too much should be read into this statement, given personal and cultural changes over the past half-century, but it does offer some insight into the sense of longing for the forgone that infuses much of his work. As it does his latest offering.