Brian Castro

Books

February 25, 2013 by Admin

Blindness-and-Rage2Blindness & Rage: A Phantasmagoria

Winner of the Prime Minister’s Literary Award [Poetry], 2018
Winner Mascara Literature Avant-garde Awards 2018 [Fiction category]

Blindness & Rage is a novel told in 34 cantos, somewhat in the manner of Pushkin’s great Russian novel in verse, Eugene Onegin. Castro’s hero Lucien Gracq is a town-planner from Adelaide who is writing a book-length poem, Paidia. Doubtful of its reception, he travels to Paris to join a literary club which guarantees its members anonymity, by having their books published under someone else’s name, while the authors themselves are encouraged to commit suicide if they are not already, as in Gracq’s case, facing death from a terminal illness. Castro’s novel is a part-serious, part-comic fantasy on the present fate of literary authors, who might as well be anonymous, or dead, for all the recognition that they are likely to receive for their writing.

Published 2017 Giramondo Publishing

 

streettostreetStreet to Street

Brian Castro takes up the novella, the form favoured by David Malouf and Helen Garner, in his new work of fiction, based on the life of the early twentieth-century Sydney poet Christopher Brennan. Brennan wrote some of the most powerful and ambitious poems in Australian poetry; he was a formidable literary figure who corresponded with Mallarmé and wrote on French poetry. He died an impoverished alcoholic. Castro’s portrait of Brennan, seen through the eyes of his would-be biographer Brendan Costa, explores the fear of failure which haunts those who live by the imagination – the fear of not achieving their own high ideals, and of disappointing their families and those who depend them. The story is told with the wit and energy that is the hallmark of Castro’s writing.

Published 2012 Giramondo Publishing

Long-listed Miles Franklin Literary Award, 2013

bath fuguesThe Bath Fugues

Vintage Castro, a wonderfully wrought performance, intrigue, romance, comedy, deception – and a melancholy sadness which courts, but never surrenders to, despair. It takes the form of three interwoven novellas, the first centred on an ageing forger, the second on a Portuguese poet, opium addict and art collector, the third on a mysteriously well connected doctor, who has built an art gallery in tropical Queensland.

Published 2009 Giramondo Publishing

Awards
Short-listed, Miles Franklin Literary Award
, 2010.
Short-listed, South Australian Premier’s Literary Award, 2010.
Short-listed, Queensland Premier’s Fiction Award
Short-listed, Victorian premier’s Literary Award, Vance Palmer Prize

 

 

 

the garden bookThe Garden Book

‘The Garden Book is so abundant and polyphonous that it inaugurates a new kind of reading.’ Ingrid Wassenaar, The Australian

Set in the Dandenongs of the 1930s, when Australia was facing a looming war, The Garden Book scrutinizes the obsessions, prejudices and sexual betrayals of the period, shedding a different light on conventional notions of Chinese migrants in Australia. This is a story of unreliable narrators, passionate love and the mis-appropriation of literary legacies.

‘The richness of the novel lies not only in the tormented, satisfyingly circular love story but in the skilful patterning and echoing of events and the questing, thrusting, interlacing ideas, often manifesting as bold concatenations or dazzling puns that connect love, lies, writing, reading and, in this novel, leaves.’ Katharine England, The Advertiser.

‘The Garden Book is another triumph of intelligence and imagination by one of the most exacting, yet rewarding of Australian novelists, and when the mood is on him, one of the most amusing as well.’ Peter Pierce, The Age.

‘Castro’s work is all the more notable for its intelligence, humour and daring. There are many fine writers in Australia, but few who are prepared to wrestle so intensely with the limits of the expressible.’ James Ley, Sydney Morning Herald

Published 2005 Giramondo Publishing

Awards
Winner, Queensland Premier’s Fiction Awar
d, 2006.
Short-listed, Miles Franklin Literary Award
, 2006.

 

 

shanghai dancingShanghai Dancing

Brian Castro introduces his novel as follows:

Shanghai Dancing is a fictional biography. Told from an Australian perspective, it is loosely based on my family’s life in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Macau for the 1930s to the 1960s. Drawing on memory, stories, photos, and family myths and secrets, the book is about the twists and turns of fiction and personal history. I feel this tale has been lurking in the background for some time. finding its way out of the labyrinth through dissimulation and story-making.’

‘[The narrator’s] commitment to writing, like that of the real-life Brian Castro, cannot free him from his compulsion to tell tales. This is our gain: Shanghai Dancing is sheer delight.’ Michael Sharkey, The Weekend Australian.

Shanghai Dancing is a work of challenging, intelligent fiction.’ James Ley, Sydney Morning Herald.

‘The story is an extraordinary polyglot mix of sources: Portuguese, Chinese, English, Jewish and Catholic, and a mysterious recessive black gene. It leapfrogs from 17th century Brazil to Shanghai in the 1930s, to Hong Kong, Macau, Paris and Australia in the recent past, all told in Castro’s characteristically baroque prose, dense with its passion for language and serious wordplay.’ Jane Sullivan, The Age.

‘[Shanghai Dancing is] in many ways the summa of all [Castro's] work.’ Laurie Clancie, The Age.

Published (Sydney: Giramondo, 2003). (NY: Kaya Press, 2009), Danser Shanghaï, Trans. French, Isabelle Lee, (Lyon: Tigre de Papier, 2010), Shanghai Dancing Trans. Chinese, Wang Guanglin, (Shanghai: Shanghai Translation Publishing House, 2010).

Awards
Victorian Premier’s Award – Vance Palmer Fiction Prize for 2003
Christina Stead Fiction Prize, NSW Premier’s Awards 2004
Book of the Year – NSW Premier’s Literary Awards 2004

 

 

stepperStepper

Nominally a spy thriller, Stepper is based on the real exploits of pre-war Russian spies operating in Japan. It is an existential study of a spy who, in a world where identity is not a fixed idea, fails to secure his own stable identity.

‘A political story, a love story, a tale of espionage and duplicity … Witty, comic and at the same time immeasurably sad, it is written in prose as delicate and illuminating as a Hokusai engraving.’ Thea Astley

Published (Sydney:Random House, 1997). Forthcoming: (NY: Kaya Press, 2008). Stepper oder Die Kunst der Spionage. Trans. German, Hans J. Schütz, (Stuttgart: Klett Cotta Verlag, 1999).

Awards
Winner, NBC Banjo Prize for Fiction 1997.

 

 

 

driftDrift

Through a fictional character, Byron Shelley Johnson, Castro ‘completes’ English experimental novelist Bryan Stanley Johnson’s unfinished trilogy. The novel explores the interaction of historical characters from the sealing days of Tasmania with contemporary characters. Does the past influence the present? Both past and present seem to influence each other in an Escherian paradox.

Published (Melbourne: Heinemann, 1994, Adelaide: Wakefield Press, 2011).

 

 

 

 

 

 

after chinaAfter China

An architect exiled from China meets an Australian woman writer who is terminally ill. He tells her traditional Chinese stories as a way of overcoming time/mortality, and of coming to terms with his own difficult past.

For a book which takes loneliness and death for its themes, After China has unexpected reserves of warmth, affection and humour. Insisting on the erotic, it is surprisingly delicate, restrained and chaste. And for a work of such diverse and eclectic reference it is rewardingly resonant and interconnected. The whole novel is thus a brilliant feat of balance.

‘After China is perhaps Castro’s most immediately accessible and engaging work so far.Katharine England’, The Advertiser, 1992

Published (Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1992). L’Architecte Chinois Trans. French, Isabelle Lee, (Avignon: Editions de l’Aube, 2003), Ling yipian haitan. Trans. Chinese, Liang Fen, (Tianjin: Baihua Publishing House, 1995). Stage adaptation by Peter Copeman, Belvoir Street Theatre, August 1998. New Australian edition with an introduction by Katharine England, (Adelaide: Lythrum Press, July 2003).

Awards
Vance Palmer Prize for fiction. 1993 Victorian Premier’s Awards

 

doublewolfDouble-Wolf

Hot on the heels of Pomeroy, Castro’s third novel Double-Wolf was also published in 1991. It takes as its premise the fact that Sergei Wespe, Freud’s famous ‘Wolfman’ patient, was an aspiring writer, and adept at spinning tales. Was what he told Freud ‘the truth’ about his neurotic condition, or did he spin out an elaborate narrative to please Freud? If the latter, where does Freud’s own ‘narrative’ or ‘discourse’, psychotherapy, stand?

Based on research about the real Wolfman, Castro combines reality and imagination in a vivid tale that has the reading guessing: what is ‘the truth’? At times salacious and at times outrageously funny, it questions the idea of the ‘myths’ that we consctruct to make sense of our world.

‘Rich, rare, profound, witty and inventive … a grand arabesque through time an space … this is a remarkable novel, with an intellectual generosity I find exceptional.’Helen Daniel, The Age.

Published (Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1991). New Australian edition with an introduction by Katharine England, (Adelaide: Lythrum Press, 2005).

Awards
The Age Fiction Award 1991
Victorian Premier’s Award for Fiction (Vance Palmer Prize) 1992
Victorian Premier’s Award for Innovative Writing, 1992

 

PomeroyPomeroy

Castro’s second novel did not appear until 1991, an interval of some 8 years. It introduced a new style. The basically realist style of Birds of Passage gave way to a more playful, parodic style. Pomeroy is a postmodern novel that parodies the detective/spy thriller style, and the writing keeps looping back upon itself. It is ostensibly the story of an Australian journalist, Jaime Pomeroy, who becomes involved in a trail of Hong Kong corruption. His adventures in Hong Kong are interspliced with his life in Australia, and doomed pursuit of the love of his life, the emblematic Estrellita.

The novel is witty and fast-paced, and plays games with literary and cultural theory.

Published (Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1990). Pomeroy, Trans. German, Hans J. Schütz, (Stuttgart: Klett Cotta Verlag, 1998).

 

 

 

birdspassageBirds of Passage

Joint winner of The Australian/Vogel Literary Award

Brian Castro’s novel was the joint winner (with Nigel Krauth) of The Australian/Vogel award for an unpublished manuscript. Birds of Passage (originally titled Solitude), was published in 1983 by Allen and Unwin. It interweaves two narratives, that of a Chinese, Lo Yun Shan, who comes to Australia from Kwangtung in the 1850s gold rushes, and a contemporary Australian, Seamus O’Young, who is of Chinese descent. Seamus discovers an old journal written by Shan, and as he translates this journal his own life becomes increasing entwined with that of Shan.

The novel investigates questions of identity, specifically in terms of ‘translation’ between cultures.

The novel has been widely praised, and is probably the best-known of Castro’s works. It introduced the reading public to Castro’s linguistically brilliant writing, and imaginative plotting.

‘A lyric celebration of the physical and spiritual endurance of two Chinese men who quest for wholeness of soul … The settings are brilliantly evoked.’ Sydney Morning Herald.

Published (Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1983). Les Oiseaux de Passage. Trans. French. Xavier Pons, (Toulouse: Editions Ombres 1988). Piaobo de niao. Trans. Chinese. Li Yao, (Beijing: Kat Lam Yun Mun, 1991).

Awards
Joint winner, The Australian/Vogel Literary Award, 1982.

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