Original Face



The drama begins with a body dumped in south-western Sydney – skinned, with no face. Lewis Lin, taxi driver, photographer, recent arrival from Beijing, happens to be at the scene. With detectives Ginger Rogers and Shelley Swert in pursuit, Lin finds himself drawn into a deadly immigration racket, with a cast which includes a film-maker just in from LA, a Buddhist monk, a millionaire bachelor artist, a masseuse, a maniacal violinist, and a refugee assassin.

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.

‘Before your father and mother were born, what was your original face?’ This ancient riddle is about appearance and identity. Who are we really? We have a presence that can be accounted for by background, and a presence that appears in what we do and how we interact. In a diverse society such as ours people have many ‘faces’. They are known, and know themselves, in many different ways. And there’s always that question, about who someone is, really.


Print ISBN : 1-920882-13-8
pp : 324 pp
September 2006

bioimg-smallNicholas Jose was Cultural Counsellor at the Australian Embassy in Beijing from 1987–1990, and has written widely on contemporary Asian and Australian culture. He is the author of seven highly regarded novels, three of which, Avenue of Eternal Peace, The Rose Crossing and The Red Thread, deal with Chinese subjects. He has recently been appointed Professor of Creative Writing at Adelaide University.

Visit Nicholas Jose’s official website here.


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Sydney Morning Herald review


Video Interview (Writing & Society Research)
The Book Reading: Original Face