David Ireland Biography
(1927– ), The Unknown Industrial Prisoner, Burn, The Glass Canoe, A Woman of the Future
Australian novelist, born in Sydney. After a wide range of employment and experiences, he became a full-time writer in 1973. His informing concern with humankind's aspirations and self-deceptions warrants comparison with Peter Carey. A working method of scenes/passages written on filing cards enables Ireland to ‘shuffle’ his novel in construction to achieve the careful disconnectedness central to his purpose. In The Unknown Industrial Prisoner (1971), Ireland drew upon his own experience of work in an oil refinery to construct from this intricate, and apparently self-referential, world a powerful image for human fallibility, both collective and individual. An existential concern with the outcast is reflected in the part-Aboriginal family of Burn (1974), and with the escapist yet regenerative male community of the public bar in The Glass Canoe (1976). In contrast, A Woman of the Future (1979) employed surreal devices of allegory in exploring potentially ideal or disastrous options for a future Australia, while City of Women (1981), set in Sydney, explored the spiritual aspirations of the lesbian central character. In common with Patrick White, Ireland uses everyday images and occupations to express questions which explore the very essence of that materialistic fulfilment which Australia is often taken to exemplify. The two novels Archimedes and the Seagle (1984) and Bloodfather (1987) maintained Ireland's reputation for challenging conventions. A critical study by Helen Daniel, Double Agent, was published in 1982.