AustLit logo
y separately published work icon The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith single work   novel  
Issue Details: First known date: 1994... 1994 The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith
The material on this page is available to AustLit subscribers. If you are a subscriber or are from a subscribing organisation, please log in to gain full access. To explore options for subscribing to this unique teaching, research, and publishing resource for Australian culture and storytelling, please contact us or find out more.

AbstractHistoryArchive Description

Peter Carey has wholly reimagined the world in The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith. It is vaguely futuristic, underlain with the sediment of a recently ruined past, just post-colonial, culturally monolithic, and although everything seems familiar, nothing is quite recognizable. Our guide here is Tristan Smith himself: a freak of nature, a 'cracked and mended pot' of flesh that hides a 'normal' human being. Tristan is everything one could ask for in a companion and interpretive center of attention - one way or another - wherever he goes, he is sharp-eyed and quick-witted, unsentimental and unforgiving: the perfect witness to the fact and extraordinary effect of his own 'monstrosity.' Tristan takes us barrelling through his life and times (learning to be invisible and viable, coming of age, losing his mother, searching for his father, transforming himself from something people are afraid even to imagine into something already sanctioned for their imaginations), down a riotously populated, circuitous path that leads, finally, to the Sirkus: the newest entertainment opiate, the inspiration of slavish devotion in audiences, and, perhaps, the source of Tristan's ultimate transformation. The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith is the picaresque made post-modern, a tragicomedy in constant, convulsive motion. (Source: Trove)

Notes

  • Other formats: Also braille, sound recording.

Affiliation Notes

  • Writing Disability in Australia:

    Type of disability Physical malformation, speech impediment, walking difficulties.
    Type of character Primary.
    Point of view First person.

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

Alternative title: Das seltsame Leben des Tristan Smith : Roman
Language: German
    • Stuttgart,
      c
      Germany,
      c
      Western Europe, Europe,
      :
      Klett-Cotta ,
      1996 .
      Extent: 480p.
      ISBN: 3608933794

Works about this Work

The Unusual Life of Gough Whitlam : Peter Carey's Tristan Smith James Dahlstrom , 2015 single work criticism
— Appears in: Journal of Language, Literature & Culture , vol. 62 no. 1 2015; (p. 32-47)

'In my reading of Peter Carey's novel The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith, I explore the way in which Carey attempts to make a fictional world in order to connect with the political and social events in the real world of Australia during the 1970s. His fictional world of Efica was made with the same struggles for identity, on both the political and social levels, that Australia was experiencing. Through an examination of the lives of the citizens of Efica, two distinct connections to the real Australia emerge: the first is a retelling of the events and scandals that led to the dismissal of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, an event which Whitlam himself describes as an 'execution;' the second relies on Benedict Anderson's theory of the constructed nature of national identities, revealing the complex and overlapping character of national identities. This is exemplified through the attributes-often shared with Voorstand, its principal ally-used to create Efica's identity. This relationship between the two countries which Carey created reflects the relationship that Australia had with the USA. Meanwhile, the characters themselves are caught in a process of trying to make new worlds and new identities in order to feel as though they belong, something that also seems to be a reflection of Australia's history as discussed by Richard White.' (Author's abstract)

Australian Literature and Alternative Modernities Bill Ashcroft , 2010 single work criticism
— Appears in: Change - Conflict and Convergence : Austral-Asian Scenarios 2010; (p. 80-93)
Bill Ashcroft explores the 'somewhat outrageous idea of Australia as an alternative modernity'. He states: 'This appears absurd on the face of it because Australia is a westernised, developed nation. It appears even more absurd as we emerge out of eleven years of slavish adherence to American unilateralism. Therefore, I realise that I am walking on very thin ice here. However, the habit has been to think of alternative modernities as alternative to the West...' (p. 81)
Reading Post-Colonial Australia Bill Ashcroft , 2010 single work criticism
— Appears in: Postcolonial Issues in Australian Literature 2010; (p. 15-37)
Intruders in the Bush : Women in Male Domains Andreas Gaile , 2010 single work criticism
— Appears in: Rewriting History : Peter Carey's Fictional Biography of Australia 2010; (p. 253-284)
'Intruders in the Bush is the title of John Carroll's study about transplanted cultures attempting to find 'a psychological, even a spiritual, home in Australia. It is a history of a people indruding into an alien land. The title of Carroll's book will serve as a motto for the following analysis of the way in which a number of Carey's female characters intrude into those areas of Australian public and private live traditionally reserved for males.' (p. 253)
The Real Matilda : Re-Inscribing the 'Pygmies' of Australian Culture Andreas Gaile , 2010 single work criticism
— Appears in: Rewriting History : Peter Carey's Fictional Biography of Australia 2010; (p. 235-251)
'In his novels, Carey entitles women, the doubly colonized sex in Australian cultural history, to a voice in history and re-inscribes them into the Australian tradition. His novels feature all sorts of strong-willed and charismatic women: Lucinda and Eliabeth Leplastrier in Oscar and Lucinda, the snake-dancer Leah Goldstein and Phoebe McGrath in Illywhacker, Ellen Kelly in True History of the Kelly Gang, Mercy Larkin in Jack Maggs and Felicity Smith in The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith. They all stand their ground in an essentially hostile patriarchal society. With these female characters the author not only reallocates those of his biographee's character traits traditionally associated with a particular sex, but he also actually rewrites the roles of men and especially women have played in Australian history.' (p. 237)
Untitled Melissa Bellanta , 2003 single work review
— Appears in: JAS Review of Books , April no. 14 2003;

— Review of Jack Maggs Peter Carey , 1997 single work novel ; The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith Peter Carey , 1994 single work novel ; Oscar and Lucinda Peter Carey , 1988 single work novel ; Illywhacker Peter Carey , 1985 single work novel ; The Tax Inspector Peter Carey , 1991 single work novel ; Collected Stories Peter Carey , 1994 selected work short story
Postmodernism Vs Postcolonialism Elizabeth Hardy , 1997 single work review
— Appears in: Science Fiction : A Review of Speculative Literature , vol. 14 no. 1 (Issue 39) 1997; (p. 21-25)

— Review of The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith Peter Carey , 1994 single work novel
Careys' Unusual Novel Exposes Politics of Disability Gillian Fulcher , 2008 single work review
— Appears in: Eureka Street , 28 March vol. 18 no. 6 2008;

— Review of The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith Peter Carey , 1994 single work novel
A Clever Fable Not of This World Peter Pierce , 1994 single work review
— Appears in: The Bulletin , 30 August vol. 116 no. 5935 1994; (p. 88-89)

— Review of The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith Peter Carey , 1994 single work novel
A Dazzling Sleight of Hand Helen Daniel , 1994 single work review
— Appears in: The Age , 20 August 1994; (p. 7)

— Review of The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith Peter Carey , 1994 single work novel
Towards an Alphabet of Australian Culture : Peter Carey's Mythistorical Novels Andreas Gaile , 2005 single work criticism
— Appears in: Fabulating Beauty : Perspectives on the Fiction of Peter Carey 2005; (p. 33-51)
Kinds of Captivity in Peter Carey's Fiction Peter Pierce , 2005 single work criticism
— Appears in: Fabulating Beauty : Perspectives on the Fiction of Peter Carey 2005; (p. 71-82)
Discusses one of the most conspicuous motifs in Carey's fictions (and in postcolonial literatures in general): that of captivity.
Simulation, Resistance and Transformation : The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith Bill Ashcroft , 2005 single work criticism
— Appears in: Fabulating Beauty : Perspectives on the Fiction of Peter Carey 2005; (p. 199-214)
Discusses the novel's treatment of postcolonial issues in Australian culture. 'Ashcroft focuses on the postcolonial struggle over representation as it is played out in the novel and presents a reading in Baudrillardian terms, looking at the novel's "consuming cultural thesis [...] that all culture, identity, and the power relationships they invoke are a product of simulation"' (Introduction to Fabulating Beauty xxxi-xxxii).
'Lies and Silences' : Cultural Masterplots and Existential Authenticity in Peter Carey's True History of the Kelly Gang Carolyn Bliss , 2005 single work criticism
— Appears in: Fabulating Beauty : Perspectives on the Fiction of Peter Carey 2005; (p. 275-300)
The critical intention of this article is to examine 'storytelling and/or the inhabiting of cultural masterplots as sites at which characters (and finally, inevitably, the author himself) are faced with the challenge of seeking or escaping authentic selfhood or existential good faith, in the Sartrean sense' (276).
Bread and Sirkuses : Empire and Culture in Peter Carey's The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith and Jack Maggs James Bradley , 1997 single work criticism
— Appears in: The New York Review of Science Fiction , January no. 101 1997; (p. 17-19) Meanjin , vol. 56 no. 3-4 1997; (p. 657-665)
Last amended 12 Mar 2018 12:32:30
X