Abstract: Analysing one of Peter Carey’s hallmarks—fact vs fake or fiction, truth vs untruth —, this article explores the wide-ranging implications and ramifications of the Ern Malley affair in Peter Carey’s My Life as a Fake, a story published in 2003, but which still resonates in 2020 given the current global attention for “fake news” and “fake truths” often used in Donald Trump’s toxic propaganda. This timely recovery of a debate in Australian literature that started in the 1990s is instrumental in making a case for rigorous textual analysis while tying it up with questions of legitimacy which have always haunted colonial and postcolonising Australia. By probing the text/context issue and linking it to the critique of New Criticism’s isolation of the text from contemporary circumstances as insufficient to capture textual meaning fully or appropriately, Vernay’s analysis attempts at reconciling the word and the world.

Keywords: fake; creativity; influence; Peter Carey; hypertextuality; context; literary hoax