the hypothetical maximum data transmission rate of a telecommunications medium

Peter Carey – His Illegal Self

Posted by dlandgren on 2009-03-25

His Illegal SelfI finished Peter Carey’s latest novel last night. In some ways it was quite a difficult read. For a long time I felt as if I was underwater, clawing my way through deep green water trying to reach the surface.

Dialogues are not always easy to follow; Carey has chosen to omit quote marks at times, so from time to time I wasn’t sure if something was being spoken, or thought. I may also have missed some obvious clues at the beginning, but it wasn’t for the longest time until I realised that the story was set at the cusp of the 60s and 70s.

Another difficulty seems to be a glaring flaw in the basic premise. Young Che (his illegal self), who is being brought up by his grandmother, is accompanied by Anna “Dial” Xenos to visit his mother who is currently in hiding. But something unexpected happens (what, we won’t find out until much later in the book) and yet rather than take Che home, which would be the most obvious course of action, she instead goes into hiding herself, dyes Che’s hair black and spirits him out of the country.

Of course, not doing that would mean there would be no story, but still, it’s rather difficult to swallow. There’s also some deceit involved in the narrative, since you don’t actually find out how tenuous this initial premise is, as the truth only comes out as a flashback much later on.

All the same, I found myself turning the pages impatiently towards the end of the book when all the pieces began to come together, and I liked the way the story ends happy but broken.


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