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A complex canon

Updated: 2013-07-22 23:04
By Mei Jia ( China Daily)

A complex canon

A leading Australian writer says his Chinese roots add richness to his works, Mei Jia reports, as Brian Castro visits Beijing to talk about his latest novel.

Hong Kong-born Brian Castro has made it to the top ranks of Australian writers with his novels inspired by his Chinese origin and his decades of passion for writing.

Arriving alone from Hong Kong at the Australian seacoast when he was 11, Castro is the author of 10 award-winning novels and chair of creative writing at the University of Adelaide, the institution where Nobel laureate J. M. Coetzee also works as a professor of literature.

Castro, 63, recently visited Beijing with his 10th, and the latest, novel Street to Street. The book's Chinese version will be rendered by veteran translator Li Yao, who has won a Golden Medallion from Australia-China Council for his career achievements.

"Castro is one of the most restless and innovative novelists working in Australia," Coetzee said at a Beijing event recently.

In Street to Street, Castro applies the mechanism of two mirroring narrators, one the early 20th-century Sydney poet Christopher Brennan and one the poet's biographer and academic Brendan Costa, to shine a comic light on the anxiety in artistic creation.

Charlie Canning, one reader, comments on Amazon: "(The novel) is one of the funniest books I've ever read. In many places, it's laugh-out-loud funny. The style and tone is all Castro: a curious blend of deft storytelling and arch ennui that I'd never encountered before."

Castro's playful style also appears in other of his works. He turns Bach into Bath to coin the title of his ninth novel, The Bath Fugues.

In his celebrated Shanghai Dancing, seemingly a memoir of the Castro family, he puts in old family photos to add to the authenticity of the storytelling. "But some of the photos really are from my family, some are not," he says.

A complex canon

From his composed expression and his tone, it's hard to connect him with the sad boy who boarded a deck alone and traveled thousand of miles to boarding school and a world full of strangers.

"Happy children do not necessarily make great writers," Castro says.


A complex canon

A complex canon

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