Peter Carey was born in Australia in 1943.
He was educated at the local state school until the age of eleven and then became a boarder at Geelong Grammar School. He was a student there between 1954 and 1960 — after Rupert Murdoch had graduated and before Prince Charles arrived.
In 1961 he studied science for a single unsuccessful year at Monash University. He was then employed by an advertising agency where he began to receive his literary education, meeting Faulkner, Joyce, Kerouac and other writers he had previously been unaware of. He was nineteen
For the next thirteen years he wrote fiction at night and weekends, working in many advertising agencies in Melbourne, London and Sydney.
After four novels had been written and rejected The Fat Man in History — a short story collection — was published in 1974. This slim book made him an overnight success.
From 1976 Carey worked one week a month for Grey Advertising, then, in 1981 he established a small business where his generous partner required him to work only two afternoons a week. Thus between 1976 and 1990, he was able to pursue literature obsessively. It was during this period that he wrote War Crimes, Bliss, Illywhacker, Oscar and Lucinda. Illywhacker was short listed for the Booker Prize. Oscar and Lucinda won it. Uncomfortable with this success he began work on The Tax Inspector.
In 1990 he moved to New York where he completed The Tax Inspector. He taught at NYU one night a week. Later he would have similar jobs at Princeton, The New School and Barnard College. During these years he wrote The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith, Jack Maggs, and True History of the Kelly Gang for which he won his second Booker Prize.
He collaborated on the screenplay of the film Until the End of the World with Wim Wenders.
In 2003 he joined Hunter College as the Director of the MFA Program in Creative Writing. In the years since he has written My Life as a Fake, Theft, His Illegal Self and Parrot and Oliver in America (shortlisted for 2010 Man Booker Prize).