in My Life as a Fake
An author's creative power does not always obey his
will: the work proceeds as it can, and often presents
itself to the author as something independent or even
MY LIFE AS A FAKE (2003), Peter Carey's eighth novel, presents itself as a fictionalized postscript to the so-called Ern Malley affair, a hoax which was perpetrated in Melbourne in 1943, and which is as canonical to Australian literary culture as the Ossian poems or Thomas Chatterton's Rowley forgeries are to British. The Ern Malley hoaxers were Harold Stewart and James McAuley, two young Australian poets with neoclassical tastes, who had become infuriated by what they saw as the “gradual decay of meaning and craftsmanship” in Australian verse.2 Their aim was to set Australian literary modernism upon a pyre of its own making, and their chosen target was Angry Penguins, an esteemed little magazine edited by Max Harris, then the wunderkind of the Australian literary scene. In the course of one Saturday afternoon, Stewart and McAuley sat down with pens and paper and created a fictitious poet, whose similarly fictitious poems they
1 Sigmund Freud, “Moses and Monotheism II,” in On the Origins of Religion, tr.
Angela Richards (Der Mann Moses und die monotheistische Religion, 1939, tr. 1985;
Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1985): 350.
2 Michael Heyward, The Ern Malley Affair, intro. Robert Hughes (London: Faber &
Faber, 1993): 137. Further page references are in the main text.