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Brian Castro

Brian Castro was born in Hong Kong in 1950, and arrived in Australia in 1961. He is the author of ten novels and a volume of essays. His first novel Birds of Passage (1983) shared the Australian/Vogel Literary Award; this was followed by Double-Wolf (1991), winner of the Age Fiction Prize and the Victorian Premier’s Award for Fiction; After China(1992), which also won the Victorian Premier’s Award; and Stepper (1997), for which he received the National Book Council Banjo Award. His novel The Garden Book won the Queensland Premier’s Fiction Prize. The Bath Fugues was published in 2009 (shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award), and his latest novel Street To Street was published in October 2012. He is currently the Chair of Creative Writing at the University of Adelaide and is the Director of the J.M. Coetzee Centre for Creative Practice.


Shanghai Dancing

Kaya Press 2009

After forty years in Australia, António Castro packs a bag and walks out of his old life forever. The victim of a restlessness and rootlessness he calls “shanghai dancing,” António seeks to understand his anxiety by retracing the wanderings of his Chinese, Portuguese, and English families.

Arriving in Shanghai, where his families collided, António’s world fragments: glittering prewar China, evangelical Liverpool, and 17th century Portugal fight for space with contemporary scenes of Asia Europe, and Australia. The stories of long-dead ancestors vie with those of new friends, family, and lovers.

Combining photographs and written images, author Brian Castro’s fictional autobiography asks if life’s meaning is to be found in the moment or in memory. This “work of major significance [that] challenges our expectations of storytelling” is the US debut of one of Australia’s most complex and celebrated literary figures.


The Garden Book

Kaya Press 2017

Brian Castro’s award-winning novel, The Garden Book, is a meditation on loneliness, addiction and exploitation. Set in the years between the Depression and the Second World War in Australia’s Dandenong Ranges, it follows the emotionally turbulent life of the beautiful Swan Hay (born Shuang He)–her marriage to the passionate yet brutal Darcy Damon, her love affair with the aviator Jasper Zenlin and her rise to literary fame overseas after her poetry is translated into French without her knowledge. Fifty years after her disappearance into institutions and a life of poverty and despair, Norman Shih–a rare-book librarian and “expert in self-effacement”–begins to piece together the life and losses of Swan. Tracking down clues from guesthouse libraries, antiquarian bookshops and Swan’s own haunted writings, Shih fills out a portrait of early twentieth-century Australian lives wracked by modernist impulses of racial prejudice.


“Brian Castro plays with past and present in this complex, teasing, polyrhythmic, carnivalesque dance through phantom Shanghai.”
J.M. Coetzee

“[A]n extraordinary polyglot mix of sources: Portuguese, Chinese, English, Jewish and Catholic, and a mysterious recessive black gene…. told in Castro’s characteristically baroque prose, dense with its passion for language and serious wordplay.
The Age

“The Garden Book is another triumph of intelligence and imagination by one of the most exacting, yet rewarding of Australian novelists, and when the mood is on him, one of the most amusing as well.” — Peter Pierce, The Age

“The richness of the novel lies not only in the tormented, satisfyingly circular love story but in the skillful patterning and echoing of events and the questing, thrusting, interlacing ideas, often manifesting as bold concatenations or dazzling puns that connect love, lies, writing, reading and, in this novel, leaves.” — Katharine England, Advertiser

“Castro’s work is all the more notable for its intelligence, humour and daring. There are many fine writers in Australia, but few who are prepared to wrestle so intensely with the limits of the expressible.” — James Ley, Sydney Morning Herald 

“Brian Castro is one of the most innovative and challenging novelists writing in English today.” — Bernadette Brennan

Brian Castro news

Brian Castro at the Transpacific Mixed-Race Literatures Seminar

Come to a day-long seminar featuring readings and dialogue with Transpacific Mixed Race authors Brian Castro (Shanghai Dancing, Kaya Press), Kien Nguyen, and Paisley Rekdal presented by the USC Center for Japanese Religions and Culture. The seminar will address these questions: “How do Transpacific mixed-race authors inscribe and represent their heritage in their artistic representations? […]

At Home In The World: New Directions in Writing from the Asia Pacific

From South Asian Kenyans struggling under the threat of expulsion, to Samoan girls on the cusp of womanhood, to a word-obsessed, multiracial Aussie piecing together his family’s past through fragments of letters and half-forgotten stories. The characters found in Kaya Press books are as provocative and nuanced as the writers who give them voice. Celebrate […]