Shanghai Dancing

Brian Castro



Shanghai Dancing is a fictional autobiography. Told from an Australian perspective, it is loosely based on my family’s life in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Macau from the 1930s to the 1960s. Drawing on memory, stories, photos, and family myths and secrets, the book is about the twists and turns of fiction and personal history. I feel this tale has been lurking in the background for quite some time, finding its way out of the labyrinth through dissimulation and story-making.” Brian Castro.

What the critics have said

‘a gorgeous meditation on the interaction of past and present’. MICHAEL SHARKEY, The Australian

‘one of the most intelligent and original of Australian writers is again brought to mind’. PETER PIERCE, The Bulletin

‘Castro’s eighth novel and in many ways the summa of all his work’. LAURIE CLANCY, The Age

‘a marvellous mingling of fiction, memoir and travel writing…one of the best Australian books – or books from anywhere if it comes to that – I’ve read for a long time’. ANDREW RIEMER, Sydney Morning Herald


Print ISBN : 0-9578311-8-8
pp : 464pp
Published : June 2003


About the Author

Brian Castro
Brian Castro is the author of the prize-winning Australian classic Shanghai Dancing, and recipient of the 2014 Patrick White Literary Award. His novels include The Garden Book and The Bath Fugues, both shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award, and Street to Street, loosely based on the life of the poet Christopher Brennan. His most recent work, a verse novel titled Blindness and Rage, won the 2018 Prime Minister's Literary Award for Poetry and the Mascara Avant-garde Award for Fiction. He is Professor of Creative Writing at Adelaide University.

For readers and book groups

Read an extract: Shanghai Dancing (PDF)


The Age
Sydney Morning Herald
The Millions


Winner 2004 NSW Premier’s Award for Fiction and Book of the Year Award
Winner 2003 Vance Palmer Award for Fiction

What the judges said

In its sweep of history, the power of its imagination and sheer literary virtuosity, Brian Castro’s Shanghai Dancing is a work of major significance.

Shanghai Dancing challenges our expectations of storytelling. Beautifully and eloquently written, Castro takes as his inspiration his own family history which encompasses a global migration from the 17th century to present day Sydney. Castro’s considerable literary skills turn history into a living, evocative present, a drama in which ancestors become living characters and are so vividly imagined they illuminate for us much of the essence of the Australian story…

Castro’s discursive style is robust, intelligent, radically innovative, playful, insightful and totally engrossing…Shanghai Dancing is a brave and ambitious work, but its success is in the fact that the novelist never lets the stylistic twists and turns, or the word play, the many layers of reference and allusion derail the storytelling. It is impressive as history, as fiction, as a book which stretches the literary form and which speaks to the universality of the human experience.