Sunday, December 30, 2012

True History of Kelly Gang - Peter Carey

‘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.’

Edward 'Ned' Kelly, the notorious bush ranger, is given a new life by the master work of Peter Carey, for which we won the Booker Prize in 2001. Written in an autobiographical form for most of the part and few reports by the officials and articles by press and others, the eventful life, albeit short ( he was caught and killed when he was only 26) is brilliantly given light to by Carey. This is my first book of him and is highly impressed with his style and the way he managed to bring the fictional qualities of otherwise a biographical subject.
Ned Kelly, son of an Irish Settler ( sent to Australia as a convict from Ireland) in Australia was often considered as a folk hero or equivalent to the Robinhood of southern hemisphere. The early life of Irish settlement in Australia had been a constant struggle, against the ruling English big brothers. While this aspect of Irish-English conflict wasn't discussed in this book, one could sense the constant conflicts between the two. The lands and other belongings owned by Irishmen were often confiscated and they were sent to gaols for petty crimes. As we understand the story of Ned wasn't any different. At his young age, his father was arrested and sent to prison for fabricated reasons. Despite his attempt to lead a normal life, his father could not survive the hardship and died leaving a family of 7 children to the mother. In order to survive, His mother started taking suitors ( in order to survive) to the obvious displeasure of young Ned. Ned was thus sent to the apprenticeship under a infamous bushranger Harry Power.

The Kelly family, by now acquired a decent sized property to cultivate near eleven mile creek bordering Victoria, had moved to their new place. His closeness to his mother and siblings, made him desert the mighty Harry Power and come back to his mother. However, his assistance to Harry Power already caused him trouble with his name now being reported for stealing horses from McBean. By now he was declared an outlaw. Moving in and out of gaol, he is now become famous through out the country. One incident involving the murder of 3 policemen, caused the authorities to sent forces for his capture. Now, joined by his brother Dan and two of his friends, the "Kelly Gang" escape the police and authorities travelling by night from one safe place to other. In the meanwhile, his mother was arrested and put in gaol, his brother in law was caught and killed, his family was often subjected to difficulties, all of which makes him against the state. Despite his reputation, we do not see any atrocities he committed against the common man, nor any gruesome act ( apart from the bank robbery) described in the book. He continue to maintain his willingness to surrender and go with the States, if his mother was released and reinstated.

On the request of his wife( who moved to the safer shores of US), Ned Kelly writes his life story to his yet to be born daughter. One can see a loving father, a man who is clear in his conscience, who do not glorify his deeds nor is he upset on his actions. The language used by the writer is apt and true to the style and the voice one expect. Despite the tite "True History" , this is a fictional work, however without deviating from the dates and people. Very insightful account, vibrant, witty and very touching tale of one of the great resistance of the downtrodden. I am not sure if the historians view the storyo f Ned Kelly with an Irish settlers resistance, but Peter Carey wrote a great tale here, of a young boy from the poor background to become a legend. Interestingly, instead of spending his time and effort on his feats and adventure, Carey spent a lot of time on the person behind the 'hero'. His love of his mother, his need to get the facts right ( he tries to write a letter to the Member of the Parliament) wth his daughter, a considerate leader, a gentleman to the others who deal with him, a oedipal son who can not stand the sufferings of his mother ( two of his mother's lovers faces the consequences), a shy lover who jumps to joy and celebrate on the news of the birth of his daughter.

The language is of the 19th century Australian settlers. The use of "adjectival" on every sentence. Structured and styled as a reproduction of 'discovered manuscripts' ( describing the size and condition of the documents) , he tried to create authenticity of his tale. Interestingly, I understand, History of Kelly Gang was the first ever feature film, produced way back in 1906. To use his own style , this is an "adjectival" good book.
True history of the Kelly Gang ( 2000)

Peter Carey

Faber & Faber

424 Pages

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