Brian Castro: A Brief Biography

Ian Gordon, National University of Singapore

Born in 1950 Brian Castro has spent most of his life in Australia since being sent to boarding school there in 1961. He has taught in schools and universities and for some years was the literary critic for Asiaweek. Since the early 1990s has been able to write fiction more or less full-time. He currently lives outside of Melbourne in the Dandenong ranges where he is completing Shanghai Dancing, a fictional work based on his family's life in China in the 1930s.

Of himself Castro has written:

"I was born literally between states, on a steam ferry between Macau and Hong Kong. My father had come from a long line of Portuguese, Spanish and English merchants who settled in Shanghai at the turn of the century intent upon exporting anything and everything to Europe. I still like to think that he was following
in the footsteps of Marco Polo, whose only claim to fame as far as I was concerned, was to introduce the noodle to Italy. Interestingly, recent scholarship has put forward the thesis that Marco Polo never got as far as China, that he made up stories about his trip. He may have also been metaphorically the forerunner of those Australian writers and artists who took a fleeting glimpse of the Far East and returned home to reel out fabulous, Orientalist mysteries and unreflective mythologies.

On my mother's side there were even stranger juxtapositions. My grandmother was from Liverpool. She took a sailing ship and landed in Kwangtung in the early part of this century in order to convert the Chinese to Christianity. She was a boat-person who dreamt of a Christian Utopia, but her mission was a failure. Instead, she married a Chinese farmer from a little village, and it was a union from which my mother was born. My Liverpudlian grandmother spoke fluent Cantonese, and I was brought up in a household which used a mixture of English, Cantonese and Portuguese." [From: Brian Castro, "Writing Asia," Australian Humanities Review, April 1996.]

See also Brian Castro, "Dangerous Dancing: Autobiography and Disinheritance," Australian Humanities Review, December 1998.

Related Materials


Last modified by Ian Gordon September 28, 2000.