Novelist Peter Carey has twice been the recipient of the Man Booker Prize. Having first received the accolade in 1988 for Oscar and Lucinda, he picked up the award again in 2001 with True History of the Kelly Gang. He continues to write fiction with A Long Way from Home published in the UK earlier this year, and in July joins us at Southbank Centre as part of our Man Booker 50 festival.
Before he arrives here to join fellow literary heavyweight Julian Barnes in conversation in our Royal Festival Hall, we grabbed five minutes of the celebrated Australian novelist’s time for what turned out to be a particularly rapid-fire Q&A.
You are one of the few writers to win the Man Booker Prize twice. What has the prize meant to you, years apart in your career?
Lightning can strike the same tree twice.
You've written 14 novels. Do they get easier to write?
Quite the opposite.
Has your approach to writing changed much over your career?
I honestly don’t know.
How much do you research the fashions and particularities of that historical moment before you sit down to write?
To quote the great E.L Doctorow, “Less than you’d think.”
Much of your work explores the complexities of Australian identity. What makes you keep returning to this theme?
In your new novel, you confront Australia’s colonial past. As a white novelist, was this an intimidating topic for you to write about?
Yes (obviously). No (in the sense that I was writing the story of White Australia).
What would be your advice to writers who are tackling difficult topics such as this?
Don’t look down.
Has it been an emotionally draining process, being immersed in the legacy of these atrocities?
What do you think?
What would you like your readers to take away from your new novel?
The rich celebratory feeling that always comes from great art. (That’s what I’d like. As for what I get, who knows?)
Your Man Booker Prize-winning novel Oscar and Lucinda is a great love story. What makes a great love story?
The complete absence of sexual intercourse.
What are you looking forward to about speaking with Julian Barnes at your upcoming event at Southbank Centre?
I’m curious about what will happen.