ABSTRACT

The previous chapters have brought to the surface the tensions generated by the encounter between the material conditions and historicity of an individual’s life and the theoretical inquiry into the notion of the subject. While Carey’s True History of the Kelly Gang, for example, convincingly adopts Kelly’s voice, it also distances it by framing it through other voices that draw attention to the reconstructed nature of the narrative. The problem of representing one’s life in language to its end (where “its” can refer to both life and language) is an especially acute problem in Malouf’s An Imaginary Life. As I argued, it is precisely this impossibility that allows the novel to generate its inquiry into origins and destinations, and into the layers of historical constructions of the nature of the human. The constitutive paradox of heterobiography, in which a recognizable (and dead) historical subject speaks in the fi rst person, makes the apparent impasse even more acute by posing the question of the auto-thanatographical: how can one speak about oneself from death? And what are the implications of applying, literally, Roland Barthes’ famous concept of “the death of the author”? Foregrounding these issues may encourage a reading of the texts as postmodern inquiries into the instability of reality and of the subject, both made by, and not just represented through, language. It is possible to argue that both An Imaginary Life and The Collected Works of Billy the Kid-despite their enormous di erences and despite the fact that, as I have argued, they go far beyond the problematization of reference-indeed pose the link between history and subjectivity as a problem, ultimately resolving, and to a good extend dissolving, the historical into the subjective, even though the historical circumstances of the characters’ and of the writers’ times are never forgotten and are in fact constantly re-inserted into the text. In Carey’s True History of the Kelly Gang the relationship between history and subjectivity is also made problematic, but history is certainly not “dissolved”, the material conditions of the subject’s existence-and in particular its legal and economic conditions-are placed squarely in the foreground and cannot be evaded, even when the various layers of editing and distancing are acknowledged.