"The drama begins with a body dumped in south-western Sydney - skinned, with no face. Lewis Lin, taxi driver, photographer, recent arrival from Beijing, happens to be at the scene. With detectives Ginger Rogers and Shelley Swert in pursuit, Lin finds himself drawn into a deadly immigration racket, with a cast which includes a film-maker just in from LA, a Buddhist monk, a millionaire bachelor artist, a masseuse, a maniacal violinist, and a refugee assassin.
Part thriller, part ethnic noir, dark and comic by turns, Original Face offers a sensuous and highly coloured portrait of the jostling energies that make up life in the contemporary Australian city.
Drawing its title from an ancient Zen koan, the novel traces the complicated manoeuvres by which people mask their identities, and the accidental pathways by which these hidden selves come to light."
"Before your father and mother were born, what was your original face? This ancient riddle is about appearance and identity. Who are we really? We have a presence that can be accounted for by background, and a presence that appears in what we do and how we interact. In a diverse society such as ours people have many ‘faces’. They are known, and know themselves, in many different ways. And there’s always that question, about who someone is, really."
Praise for Original Face
(click images for a larger view)
Giramondo Publishing 2005.
ISBN 1 902882 13 8
a child when I first heard of him...
This highly original book - history, travelbook, memoir, quest - sets out to discover Roger Jose, perhaps a distant relative, and his life in a remote Aboriginal community on Australia's farthest shore, reading world literature and evolving his own radical philosophy. Roger's chosen motto, still pinned up in Borroloola, was 'Man's greatness is the fewness of his needs.' In his journey through the Gulf of Carpentaria searching for Roger, Nicholas Jose also met a young Gangalidda man, Murrandoo Yanner, representative of some of the most deprived Aboriginal communities in Australia who has committed himself to fighting for his people's rights in their vast and beautiful traditional territory.
This book is the absorbing response of a modern writer to his own heritage.
for Black Sheep:
an engaging history of northern Australia, beginning with 18th-century
traders from the East Indies, and a moving account, more detailed than
Bruce Chatwin's in The Songlines, of the struggles of Aboriginal people
to run their own lives and live in their own land." Sarah Curtis,
(click images for a larger view)
Hardie Grant Books, Melbourne, September 2002.
1 7406 4069 1
A seductive love story set in contemporary Shanghai, The Red Thread intertwines the lives of two pairs of lovers across the centuries. Shen is a young, American-educated appraiser for an auction house. Ruth is a gifted Australian artist he meets, it seems, by chance. And Han is a beautiful, enigmatic woman who both facilitates and complicates their relationship. Yet all three lives mysteriously mirror characters described in a rare, eighteenth-century book that comes up for auctiona book that is missing its final chapters. As the characters in the original tale move toward an ominous, unknown end, Shens search for the missing pages goes from curiosity to desperation as he hopes to discoverand perhaps alterhis fated future with Ruth.
Author Nicholas Jose has taken one of Chinas most cherished and elegant love stories, Six Chapters of a Floating Life, and seamlessly woven it into the glittering, high-rise world of present-day Shanghai. The Red Thread is an unforgettable, evocative novel of love and destiny, art and beauty, and the passion that ties one person to another forever.
"He thought of the red thread of passion wound tightly around the fingers of the Old Man of the Moon, the god of couples. It was the cord that bound one heart to another the red thread of ever renewing love."
An intimate, lyrical story about the ties that bind people together, past and present, East and West, physical and spiritual.
Praise for The Red Thread:
'The Red Thread is so textually rich it's almost as if three novels have been rolled into one. Simultaneously, a simple romance with an exotic setting, a postmodern parody of a Chinese literary classic , Jose's novel is also a spiritual journey.' - Justine Ettler, The Observer
'This is a book of subtle contrasts and exquisite brush strokes. Its unforced sense of mystery derives not from whimsy but from the subtle substance of experience.' - Tom Deveson, The Sunday Times
'If anything, Jose's reputation will have been enhanced by this latest novel: a love story set in Shanghai that combines lucid and poetic storytelling with a near-thrillerish pace.' - Michael Thompson-Noel, The Financial Times
'In Jose's stylish romance, modern-day Shanghai is a forward-looking economic empire, yet still a city consumed by its past Jose's use of Shen Fu's memoir is quirky and inventive his tale lingers well after the last page.' - Publishers Weekly (U.S.)
'Jose has made deft and bold use of this incomplete text by reproducing and improvising extracts from it into his own, to draw parallels between the Chinese pair and their contemporary successors, and between their menage a trois and its avatar, and to thread the completed past with the incomplete present .' - Leong Liew Geok, Singapore
'The Red Thread is vagabondage with Ming and Qing props, at once poised and elegant, worldly and whimsical.' - Foong Ling Kong, Sydney Morning Herald
'The Red Thread is skillfully built upon an original conceit: it transposes into a brutally modern settingtoday's Shanghaithe characters and situations of a delicate Chinese memoir pertaining to the late 18th century, the famous Six Chapters of a Floating Life by Shen Fu. And it invents a new conclusion, since the original has lost its ending In fact this new novel works very effectively on its own terms and will touch even those readers who care little for, or know nothing of, its Chinese background. The elegance of a tour de force always rests upon a deceptive appearance of effortlessness Only those who are already acquainted with Six Chapters can fully measure the ingenuity and sophistication of The Red Thread, for they alone know how bold a challenge Jose took up when he borrowed Shen Fu's brush and gave him the chance of a second life.' - Pierre Ryckmans, The Australian's Review of Books
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Books, San Francisco, 2000;
0 8118 2951 0
Greek: O Kipos Tis Thiplis Eftihias, translated by, Evangelia Hatsileftheriou
(Athens: Empiria, 2001)
In the scarred landscape of contemporary Australia, eight childhood friends seek their individual destinies: Alex, ambitious but melancholy; Cleve, snatched by the state from his Aboriginal parents; Danny, his twin brother, who has spent more of his life in custody than free; Elspeth, the heiress seeking enlightenment; Jane, passionately committed to her art; Josie, dedicated to doing good; Wendy, in search of fun; and Ziggy, the brilliant actor. These are the custodians, but of what, and for whom?
From the 1950s to the 1980s; from the outback to the heights of Manhattans art world to the London stage; from tropical Queensland to Maos China such is the scope of The Custodians. It is at once a startling and an often comical novel about friendship, love and betrayal; and an astounding story of struggle and historya history which these eight characters must both embrace and transcend if they are to find reconciliation with the land to which they belong, but which does not belong to them.
The Custodians is a triumph of storytelling, a sharp and moving epic from one of Australias most acclaimed writers.
Praise for The Custodians
"In Nicholas Joses highly enjoyable new novel, a panoramic lens sweeps across a whole Australian generation This fine book is an anatomy lesson of a land and its people as they were and are, and a spritle, often amused and amusing rendering of modern mores: not just a book about identity and sense of place, but about loyalty to ones place." - Independent on Sunday
"A novel of characters but also of ideas that takes us to the heart of Australia now." - David Malouf
"An intimate, risk-taking portrait." - Jane Campion
"A brilliantly vivid tapestry of the Australian predicament, rich in possibility, but shot through with accident and revelation. Through it all breathes the ancient reality of the land: its red earth and bright air painted with the sure hand of a master." - Simon Schama
"Epic in its architecture, richly filigreed with intimate and erotic detail, The Custodians catches you gasping with joy of recognition and shocks of surprise in its revelations of an Australian generations experience. I love this book." - Scott Hicks
"Touching on all the sources of intellectual and spiritual anguish in todays Australia." - Robert Dessaix
"Joses scope is wide, his ambitions both grand and noble. This is one of the best Australian books Ive read and it will linger in the readers mind long after the final page is turned." - The Daily Advertiser
Shortlisted for the Commonwealth Fiction Prize (South-East Asia)
Picador Australia, 1997; Picador, London, 1997; St. Martins Press, New York, 1997: An R.B.Wyatt Book.
0 7329 0892 2
From The Custodians
"As the sun went lower in the sky, the sand dunes were accentuated by elongated shadows, the red end of the spectrum intensified and the westward face of the lunette was transformed into hundreds of sharp little peaks as the wrinkled skin of earth seemed to loosen and tremble "
Read a 1997 profile of Nicholas Jose which discusses The Custodians and the Lake Mungo landscape which inspired the novel.
Escaping revolution and a ships mutiny, 17th-century naturalist Edward Popple and his daughter Rosamund find refuge on an uncharted island in the Indian Ocean. Popple is a man of passionsfor Rosamund and for scientific discovery. On the island they encounter Lou Lu, a Chinese eunuch, and his charge, Taizao, an impotent princeling, lost on the way to Rome to petition the Pope. They have a yellow rose. Like the crossing of Chinese and European roses the crossing of the two cultures through passionate love and procreation might also prove evolutionaryor will it?
"Coming ashore they were unnerved by a silence, as to any human presence, the more bewildering for the din of bird cries, rustle of untamed leaves, roll of surf and suck of shingle."
Praise for The Rose Crossing
"Nicholas Jose has written an imaginative historical fable, less a love story than a tale of obsession and crosscultural exploration in which the rose is a central symbol But its not so much what happens in this book as how. The story comes together like an intricate silk tapestry, one colourful image setting off another, contrasts creating harmonies." - Penelope Nelson, The Weekend Australian
"a beautifully written, highly entertaining novel in which East and West meet and mingle in a welter of mutual misunderstanding The interest of the narrative itself, the fine descriptions of scenery and the acute analysis of psychology make this novel an excellent read." - Alison Hardie, Far East Economic Review
"As the title suggests, there is an appealing ambiguity about this rich and strange book which never obscures the vitality of the tale." - David Utterson, Literary Review
"A cool, cerebral sensibility is heated by sensuous descriptions and adds resonance to the authors daring and learning." - Mail on Sunday
"Filled with vivid evocation of another time, wonderfully peculiar characters rich, often witty, and startling." - Kirkus Reviews
"A sensuous, intensely lyrical tale." - Andrea Stretton, Vogue
"A fascinating novel of botany and historical intrigue In this island paradise, lust and ambition play the serpents, and the ironies of history provide the epilogue." - Islands
The Rose Crossing has inspired an art exhibition. The Rose Crossing: Contemporary Art in Australia contains work by 12 contemporary artists and has been seen in Brisbane, Hong Kong, Singapore, Perth, Sydney and Campbelltown as part of the Reaching the World Olympics Arts Festival (August-October 2000).
More information, as well as a catalogue essay by Nicholas Jose, is available here:
Penguin Australia, 1994; Hamish Hamilton, London, 1995
0 241 00286 9
French: Nicholas Jose, Pour L'Amour D'Une Rose Noire, Roman, traduit delanglais par Anne Rabinovitch (Paris: Plon, 1997,
Chinese: Hei Meigui, translated by Li Yao (Chinese Literature Press,
Beijings Avenue of Eternal Peace is the boulevard leading to Tiananmen Square. The world witnessed what happened there in May and June 1989, but ultimately came no closer to understanding the riddle of contemporary China than a TV screen montage. Now, in an atmospheric and penetrating novel that takes place a short time before the massacre, Nicholas Jose captures this city of contradictions, its people, and a moment in history much as Christopher Isherwood did for 1930s Berlin.
Wally Frith, the hero-observer of this remarkable novel, is an Australian doctor and university professor specializing in cancer research. Middle-aged, emotionally bereft, recently widowed, he feels himself burnt-out. Therefore he readily accepts an invitation to come as a visiting professor to Peking Union Medical College, Chinas leading teaching and research hospital. The prospect pleases: new scenes, new people, new life and beyond these vague expectations, he has a particular goalto meet Professor Hsu Chien Lung who, years before, had written a trail-blazing paper on cancer, and who Wally believes may still be on the faculty there. But Professor Hsu seems to have vanished; perhaps he never existed. The search, which has its macabre as well as comic elements, is stalled, and Wally meanwhile immerses himself in the ordinary (sometimes extraordinary) life of Beijing, newly exposed to Western influences, and in a state of vigorous contradiction.
The people whom he meets reflect the diversity of the contemporary city: academics and bureaucrats, shady traders, a basketballer, a dissident artist, and a band of eccentric Westerners who hang out at the New Age Bar, the first spot in the capital where Chinese with no clout but money could drink cocktails with foreigners. But his most important meeting is with the elegant, enigmatic linguist Jin Juan, who is prepared to believe Hsu exists and who joins him on the quest. As they travel together the bond between them deepens. For Wally the expectations that led him to Beijing are within reach of fulfillment. But Jin Juan knows otherwise; she understands better than he what waits for them at the end of the Avenue of Eternal Peace.
This extraordinary, kaleidoscopic, multi-leveled novel shows us a China the TV cameras couldnt photographthe China inside the hearts of its people. It is a moving and revelatory experience by a writer who was a witness to history and to a peoples dreams.
Avenue of Eternal Peace was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Prize in 1990.
‘A brilliant novelistic portrait of China on the brink of monumental change.’ – Los Angeles Times
‘An authentic, gripping, disturbing tale of Beijing leading up to the Tiananmen Square massacre.’ – Advertiser
Read an excerpt from a review of Avenue of Eternal Peace by Carolyn Wakeman, published in the Los Angeles Times, May 26, 1991.
ISBN 978 1 86254 799 5
Penguin Australia, 1989; Dutton, New York, 1990: A William Abrahams Book
0 14 011724 5
Chinese: Changan Dajie, translated by Li Yuan, Shidai Wenyi
Chubanshe, 1991, Changchun.
Avenue of Eternal Peace was filmed for television as Children of the Dragon (1992) by Southern Star Xanadu and Zenith for ABC TV and the BBC, starring Bob Peck, Linda Cropper, Gary Sweet and Lily Chen, directed by Peter Smith.
In a small town on the Australian coast Penny grows up to marry the boy who has waited for her. Few know the truth about her birth. Her uncle Jack is one, for he shared with her father not only his childhood but also the horror of their wartime experience. Jack and Penny's special bond is as rare and precious as the beautiful nautilus shell they find washed up on the beach - entwined with its history are the secrets of their past and the tenacious passions of the other people who have had a stake in their lives. Richly evocative of postwar Australian life, Paper Nautilus subtly illuminates the complexities of ordinary people and the surprising powers of the human spirit.
Praise for Paper Nautilus
"A voice perfectly suited to a novel about life in a fictional country town, Wooka, located on the Yorke peninsulaa sort of heightening, or distillation, of the voices we might expect to hear spoken in that township itself a novel of proportion: a novel that winds symmetrically back into itself like the exquisite paper nautilus shells of the title." - Peter Goldsworthy, The Adelaide Review
"Two brothers from a South Australian country town grow up to experience World War II. When one dies, the other witnesses the complexities of ordinary family life in the new generation. Although the novel tells a simple enough story, Jose begins in 1965 and works backwards so that we learn about the present from incidents in 1961, 1953 and so on. This method draws our attention to changing perceptions over time and reflects Joses interest in the complex processes behind a single moment. It is surprisingly satisfying." - Susan McKernan in The Good Reading Guide, compiled by Helen Daniel, McPhee Gribble, Melbourne, 1989.
"A disarmingly simple story, told with an elegance of style that immediately adds distinctiona feat not to be taken lightly. Jose took risks in opting for such an unremarkable narrative thread: life in a country town, small dramas of love and relationship, ghosts from the dislocations of World War II. But he has found the language to burnish these incidents till they shine and the imagination is quickened. The no-tricks simplicity of the prose reveals very accomplished tricks indeed." - Thomas Shapcott in The Good Reading Guide, 1989.
New edition, Wakefield Press, 2006
Penguin Australia, 1987
ISBN 0 14 010019 9
Studying Paper Nautilus
Study Guide: A theoretical and practical guide to literature study based
on the novel Paper Nautilus by Nicholas Jose, by Viv Tellefson
and Sophie Arkoudis (Directorate of School Education, Victoria, 1995).
See also Doing English for the HSC by Paul Brock and Jacqueline Manuel, Chrysalis Communications.
Chinese: Ch'uan Hsiao,
"Over the summer Rowena had at last managed to touch the possibilities of her future Like so many threads they ran through her fingers. She felt them there and discriminated between those she would follow and those she would pluck out. Now in the pressure of the family circle all her possibilities became tangled and smothering."
The year is 1970 and Rowena Sonner has just finished school. Torn between the expectations of her upper middle-class background and her own yearnings to experiment with life, she rebels violently against her parents and all their accompanying ethics and values.
In search for a life of her own she realises the never-ending possibilities of change that exist for both herself and for those around her. In exploring these possibilities she discovers her own sexuality and ability to love; the importance of always fighting to preserve the things one loves and holds dear; and developing the ability to always learn from the past, and the strength and perseverance to start afresh.
Rowenas capacity for change and development is revealed as the field and fabric of her life expand to include time spent in Europe. London, in particular, and the concern of her English friend, Ian, help her exorcise the remains of her doomed passion for her first love Hal, and the confused and guilty feelings she has still for her frustrated and unhappy mother.
On her return to South Australia she discovers a new-found sense of harmony with the environment she so desperately longed to escape. Unexpected events and new kinds of relationships bring about a drastic turn in Rowenas life which finally moves towards a sort of peace.
Shortlisted for the Vogel Prize.
Rigby, Adelaide, 1984
ISBN 0 7270 1998 8
Penguin, Australia, 1986
ISBN 0 14 008851 2
A Clean Place
University of Queensland Press, St. Lucia, 1980.
0 7022 1537 6
“After the Show”, New Australian Stories, edited by Aviva Tuffield, Scribe 2008, pp.183-88
“Emeritus Professor Wally Frith addresses a ceremony at Peking Union Medical College (Beijing, 2008)”, Asian Literary Review (Summer, 2008 No.8), pp.213-17
“The Disappearing Book”, Biblio: A Review of Books (India) vol.xiii, nos.9 & 10, Sept-Oct 2008
“George”, The Review of Contemporary Fiction Fall 2007, vol. xxvii, no.3, pp.206-09
"Original Face", Antipodes, December 2000, pp. 137-143.
"Empress and Shamaness", Meanjin, 4, 2000.
"Cloud", refo, 2, 2000. www.worldwriting.com
"Love of the Place", My One True Love, edited by Caro Llewellyn, Random House 1999, pp.77-83.
"Diamond Dog", Meanjin, vol 57, no 3, 1998, pp.564-574.
"Beautiful Island", HEAT 10, 1998, pp. 29-38.
"Marriage Bonds", Love Cries, edited by Peter Blazey, Victoria Dawson and Tim Herbert, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1995, pp. 20-29.
"Ha Ha Ha!", Amnesty, edited by Dee Mitchell, Minerva Australia, 1993, pp. 121-132.
"A Game of Go", Australian Gay and Lesbian Writing, edited by Robert Dessaix, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1993, pp.348-355.
"The Old Socialists Last Song", Voices, vol 1 no 3, 1991, pp.54-62.
"Kong: Fossil", Millennium, edited by Helen Daniel, Penguin Australia, 1991, pp. 111-114.
"One Fine Day", The Adelaide Review, July 1987.