Global Activism, Australian Politics and an Ageing Hack; AMNESIA by Peter Carey (Faber, PS18.99)

The Evening Standard (London, England), November 6, 2014 | Go to article overview

Global Activism, Australian Politics and an Ageing Hack; AMNESIA by Peter Carey (Faber, PS18.99)


Byline: JANE SHILLING

THE year is 2010. In Washington DC it is a spring evening; in Melbourne a chilly autumn morning. In prisons across Australia and America a worm virus begins to attack the computerised control systems. Announcing "THE ANGEL DECLARES YOU FREE", it opens the locks and releases the startled inmates.

Felix Moore, the narrator of Peter Carey's 13th novel and self-styled "sole remaining Left-wing journalist" in Australia, is both grateful to the Angel virus and mortified by its timing. The story of the virus and the "terrorist" behind it dislodges him from the front pages of the papers, where a libel case that he is about to lose at appalling cost is making ribald headlines. Then again, he says, "my life in journalism was being destroyed at the time I might have expected my moment in the sun".

Much of Felix's working life has been devoted to the constitutional crisis of 1975, when the CIA was said to have been involved in the sacking of the Labour Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam. Now Felix is "an ageing breadwinner with a ridiculous mortgage" and no one will hire him to write the story that he has been waiting all his life to break.

No one, that is, but his old mate Woody Townes. Woody is that rare creature, a vastly rich socialist property developer.

The task with which Woody entrusts Felix is that of writing a book about the person supposedly responsible for the Angel worm: Gaby Baillieux, the 30-year-old activist daughter of Felix's old university friend Celine Bailleux, an actress, and her partner, Sando Quinn, a Labour MP.

Gaby faces extradition to the US for the Angel worm attack, so Felix's role -- in exchange for an envelope full of cash, a prescription for Dexedrine, a MacBook Pro, a Cabcharge account and a place to live -- is to convince public opinion that she is an Australian heroine. …

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