'"I lost my own father at 12 yr. of age and know what it is to be raised on lies and silences my dear daughter you are presently too young to understand a word I write but this history is for you and will contain no single lie may I burn in Hell if I speak false."
'In TRUE HISTORY OF THE KELLY GANG, the legendary Ned Kelly speaks for himself, scribbling his narrative on errant scraps of paper in semi-literate but magically descriptive prose as he flees from the police. To his pursuers, Kelly is nothing but a monstrous criminal, a thief and a murderer. To his own people, the lowly class of ordinary Australians, the bushranger is a hero, defying the authority of the English to direct their lives. Indentured by his bootlegger mother to a famous horse thief (who was also her lover), Ned saw his first prison cell at 15 and by the age of 26 had become the most wanted man in the wild colony of Victoria, taking over whole towns and defying the law until he was finally captured and hanged. Here is a classic outlaw tale, made alive by the skill of a great novelist.' (From the publisher's website.)
'Outlaw Ned Kelly lived only 25 years, but it was enough to write his story into Australian legend. The subject of countless books, songs, and other lore, he has become a near-mythical figure in the mould of Jesse James or even Robin Hood. Adapting the Booker Prize–winning novel by Peter Carey, True History of the Kelly Gang stars George MacKay, Russell Crowe, Nicholas Hoult, Essie Davis, and Charlie Hunnam in a gloriously fictionalized tale of a true-life renegade.
'Kelly (MacKay) grows up in an already rebellious Irish immigrant family, regularly bristling against the outback justice imposed by local police. Over time, he falls under the influence of Harry Power (Crowe), a true bush-ranger with little regard for colonial authority over the wild territory where he operates. Each encounter with the law pushes Kelly further and further into a dedicated life of crime. Soon enough, he's gathered a gang around him to help with the horse thieving and shootouts, and many Australian settlers are applauding his exploits. It all builds to an epic final showdown.'
Source: Toronto International Film Festival.
Unit Suitable For
AC: Year 11 (English Unit 2)
19th-century Australia, Australian identity, English–Irish tensions and conflict, folklore, heroes, lawlessness, loyalty, Oppression and victimisation, policing and the law, rebellion, villains, violence
Critical and creative thinking, Ethical understanding, Information and communication technology, Intercultural understanding, Literacy
'The imaginations of convicts in Australia became attuned to the pairing of opposites and this led to strange tensions in their way of representing things. On Norfolk Island the meanings of words were reversed, so that ‘good’ meant ‘bad’ and ‘ugly’ meant ‘beautiful’. This undermining of official meanings produced the argot called the ‘flash’ or ‘kiddy’ language of the colony. Designed at first to keep private sentiments from being inspected, it eventually supported a system of dissident actions called ‘cross-work’ or ‘cross doings’. One word loomed large amidst these inversions: ‘fakement’, meaning booty, forgery or deceit. The verb has more extensive meanings: rob, wound, shatter; ‘fake your slangs’ means break your shackles. It also meant performing a fiction and accepting the consequences of it.' (Publication abstract)
'Sister Kate and True History of the Kelly Gang are two important rewritings of the Ned Kelly Legend—an indispensable part of Australian collective memory. Both novels aim to rewrite history: Sister Kate focuses on deploring the unfair treatment of women in the nationalist history, whereas True History places emphasis on disclosing the operations behind the colonialist historiography. Both can be viewed as postcolonial rewritings: Sister Kate is primarily keen on bringing to light the catastrophic consequences under the colonial rule, while True History centers on the colonized Other’s fighting back. They are both involved in subverting the facade of masculinity. To attain this goal, Sister Kate reveals a series of aggressive exclusion on the part of the Kelly Gang, while True History focuses on the phenomenon of cross-dressing. A comparative study of both novels helps to explicate different writers’ concerns and approaches in their reshaping of Australian collective memory.'
'Mo Yan and Peter Carey are internationally acclaimed writers who have written a number of historical novels. They share many similarities in their characterization and narrative skills as they subvert official narrative memories; however, they differ in their explorations of their respective national psyches. Mo Yan's Red Sorghum and Carey's True History of theKelly Gang represent memories of historical events and figures which depict their bandits, Yu Zhan'ao (Red Sorghum) and Ned Kelly (Kelly Gang), as heroes in dark and turbulent periods. This article suggests that these characters are a reflection of the cruel histories that Chinese and Australian peoples have experienced in fighting against their enemies. Through Mo Yan and Carey's literary representation of memories within the characters of Zhan'ao and Kelly, the aesthetic value of the fiction brings the histories to life.' (Publication abstract)
'Australian texts are rarely included in syllabi on North American College campuses. Perhaps the only Australian writer who is well known outside Australia is Patrick White, the only Australian to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. Unfortunately, the variety and depth of Australian literature remains a well-kept secret but it is certainly worth closer consideration, expecially when faculty members are choosing texts in liberal arts or "great books"-type programs. One Australian novel, worth considering for general education courses in world literature or composition is Peter Carey's True History of the Kelly Gang (2000), which won the Booker Prize in 2001. Three reasons make this novel worth studying: First, Carey's focus on the bushranger, or outlaw, Ned Kelly, who is an iconic Australian figure, reveals key insights into Australian culture. Second, True History of the Kelly Gang deals with universal issues, which are relevant, challenging, and timely for today's students, and third, Carey's experimental approach to language use in this novel is so striking' and unusual that North American students would have difficulty finding anything comparable elsewhere.' (Introduction)