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Photo: Roberto Finocchiaro

Nicholas Jose

The Idealist (2023) is Nicholas Jose’s first novel since Original Face (2005) and continues the themes of his novels Paper Nautilus (1987) and Avenue of Eternal Peace (1989), exploring Australia’s place in the world in times of conflict, and the changes wrought in the lives of individuals who are impacted by them. He has published seven novels, and three collections of short stories, including Bapo (2014). His non-fiction includes Chinese Whispers: Cultural Essays and an acclaimed memoir, Black Sheep: Journey to Borroloola. He has written widely on contemporary Asian and Australian culture. He was Cultural Counsellor at the Australian Embassy Beijing from 1987-1990 and Chair of Australian Studies at Harvard University. He was general editor of The Literature of Australia (Norton 2009). He is an Adjunct Professor in the Writing and Society Research Centre, Western Sydney University and Emeritus Professor of English and Creative Writing at The University of Adelaide.

Nicholas Jose is undoubtedly our most eloquent commentator on Chinese art, culture and recent history.

Andrew Riemer, Sydney Morning Herald


The Idealist

Nicholas Jose

320 pages
Paperback, 21 x 14.8 cm
Published September 2023
ISBN 9781922725783

The new work of fiction by the celebrated novelist and essayist Nicholas Jose, set against the turmoil of the independence movement in East Timor. The narrative is told from changing perspectives, moving through time and memory, in search of what really happened. It is a story, above all, about the formation, necessity and human cost of idealism.

Antipodean China

Reflections on Literary Exchange

Edited by Nicholas Jose, Benjamin Madden

256 pages
Paperback, 23.5 x 15.3 cm
Published February 2021
ISBN 9781925818642

Antipodean China is a collection of essays drawn from a series of encounters between Australian and Chinese writers, which took place in China and Australia over a period of almost ten years, from 2011. The engagement between the writers could be defensive, especially given the need to depend on translators, but as each spoke about the places important to them, their influences and the literary forms in which they wrote, resemblances between them emerged, and the different perspectives contributed to a sense of common understanding, about literature, and about the role of the writer in society. In some cases the communication was even stronger, as when the Tibetan author A Lai speaks knowingly about Alexis Wright’s novel Carpentaria, and the two winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Mo Yan and J.M. Coetzee, discuss what the Nobel meant for each of them.


Nicholas Jose

200 pages
Paperback, 19.7 x 13 cm
Published September 2014
ISBN 9781922146632

The title of Nicholas Jose’s new collection of stories refers to a form of Chinese painting that tricks the eye into thinking what it sees is a collage of fragments. Bapo literally means ‘eight broken’, where eight is a Chinese lucky number and ‘broken’ implies that luck has run out – though the term also suggests that there’s another kind of luck, in simply surviving, and being able to hold the pieces of one’s life together in some sort of order.

Jose’s stories feature a cast of characters affected by time or chance in different ways, artists, diplomats, entrepreneurs, immigrants, families at the crossroads. Many explore Australia’s relationship to China or have echoes of China in them; others dwell on the qualities of memory, resilience, play and adventure – qualities which are implicit in the form of bapo, and characteristic of Jose’s writing as a whole.

Original Face

Nicholas Jose

324 pages
Paperback, 21 x 14.8 cm
Published September 2006
ISBN 1920882138

Part thriller, part ethnic noir, dark and comic by turns, Original Face offers a sensuous and highly coloured portrait of the jostling energies that make up life in the contemporary Australian city. Drawing its title from an ancient Zen koan, the novel traces the complicated manoeuvres by which people mask their identities, and the accidental pathways by which these hidden selves come to light.


Nicholas Jose interviewed by Ivor Indyk, Elizabeth Bay, Sydney 15 December, 2014. Produced with the support of the Commonwealth Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.

Nicholas Jose discussing Australian literature and the Macquarie PEN Anthology from Allen & Unwin.

Image gallery


‘On Reticence’, HEAT 5, 1997, pp.118-128.

‘In Hot Water’, Sydney Review of Books (7 November, 2014)..

‘My China Project’, The China Project, Queensland Art Gallery.

‘Going Home Singing: The Analects of Simon Leys’, HEAT 9, 1998 pp.40-48.

‘Translation Plus: On Literary Translation and Creative Writing’, The AALITRA Review: A Journal of Literary Translation No. 10, (Melbourne: Monash University, May 2015): 5-17.

‘The Mungo Excursion’, HEAT 15, 2000, pp. 75-92.

‘On Writing Asian Poetry in Australia’, Mascara Review (9 June, 2013)

On Jose

Australian Writers 1975-2000 Adam Aitken, ‘Nicholas Jose, 2006.

Australian Book Review Evelyn Juers, Vanishing Points: An Essay on the Work of Nicholas Jose, Dec 2000/Jan 2001, no.227.

The Good Weekend Nikki Barrowclough, ‘Landscape of Memory’, 12 July 1997, pp.25-28.


‘China in fiction with Nicholas Jose’, with Michael Cathcart, Books and Art podcast, 30 October 2014.

‘Nicholas Jose on collating an anthology of Australian literature’, with Richard Fidler, Conversations with Richard Fidler, 5 August 2009.