BIRDS OF PASSAGE book cover   Birds of Passage
Brian Castro

Cover design: Judy Hungerford, Chinese calligraphy: Lau Wai Sik

Dustjacket synopsis:

"Birds of Passage is the powerful and haunting story of Seamus O'Young, an Australina-born Chinese, on a collision course with the past.

"He reconstructs his past through the eyes of Shan, an ancestor who came to Australia in the 1880s. And, just as Shan was driven from the goldfields by depravity, racism and sheer greed; so Seamus finds himself, a century later, fighting for his own life and sanity.

"Birds of Passage was a joint winner of the 1982 Australian/Vogel Literary Award."

"His writing is as spare and controlled, yet as eloquent, as flowing and compelling as the finest Oriental painting." - The Australian
"The atmospherics are consistently excellent..." - The Canberra Times
"...Birds of Passage is a powerful and haunting first novel..." - Sydney Morning Herald

First Paragraph:

Kwangtung, 1856
My name is Lo Yun Shan. I take my name from Tai Mo Shan, which is the Big Mist Mountain. The mountain is not very high by Chinese standards, but it is constantly shrouded in cloud and mist. No one has ever viewed the summit from afar, even on the brightest days. The village people say that the Buddha lives on the summit, and from there he maintains his indifferent gaze on the valleys below. If you climb the mountain from the east, you will see a small temple jutting out of the rock. In the interior of the temple you will see a huge Buddha carved out of stone. No one is permitted to climb higher than the temple. To do so would be disrespectful and, worse, would bring bad luck.

I have taken the climb above the temple; I have reached the summit and felt the moisture of the clouds. Time and time again I have gone to the summit in my youth. There I found peace. I also found evidence of other climbers ... half-eaten bags of rice and vegetables, wrapped in banana leaves; fish bones; human faeces congealed in the cold.

From the Allen and Unwin paperback edition, 1984.

This novel was the joint winner of the Australian/Vogel Award in 1982.

This page and its contents are copyright © 2004 by Perry Middlemiss, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

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Last modified: December 14, 2004.