Brian Castro’s novel was the joint winner (with Nigel Krauth) of The Australian/Vogel award for an unpublished manuscript. Birds of Passage (originally titled Solitude), was published in 1983 by Allen and Unwin. It interweaves two narratives, that of a Chinese Lo Yun Shan who comes to Australia from Kwangtung in the 1850s gold rushes, and a contemporary Australian, Seamus O’Young, who is of Chinese descent. Seamus discovers an old journal written by Shan, and as he translates this journal his own life becomes increasing entwined with that of Shan.
The novel investigates questions of identity, specifically in terms of ‘translation’ between cultures.
The novel has been widely praised, and is probably the best-known of Castro’s works. It introduced the reading public to Castro’s linguistically brilliant writing, and imaginative plotting.
‘A lyric celebration of the physical and spiritual endurance of two Chinese men who quest for wholeness of soul … The settings are brilliantly evoked.’ Sydney Morning Herald.