Fly Away Peter


David Malouf

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Fly Away Peter Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on David Malouf's Fly Away Peter. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of David Malouf

David Malouf, who is of mixed Lebanese and Jewish ancestry, grew up in Queensland, Australia, where he also attended university. After graduating, he divided his time between Australia and Europe, teaching English in a number of secondary and post-secondary institutions. His first breakthrough as a writer came midway through his teaching career, with the 1962 publication of Four Poets—a volume of poetry. Although he largely shifted his focus to novel-writing in the mid-1970s, many critics (as well as Malouf himself) consider his early experiences as a poet key to his compact and lyrical style as a writer of prose. In 1978, Malouf published his second novel—the widely acclaimed An Imaginary Life—and subsequently left his position at the University of Sydney to pursue writing full-time. In all, Malouf has written nine novels and multiple other works, including poetry and short story collections, essays, and even the librettos for several operas.
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Historical Context of Fly Away Peter

In Fly Away Peter, Jim Saddler fights in World War I. Given that he hails from Australia and that all the other soldiers in his company are his countrymen, he’s presumably a member of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC). Originally formed in 1914, the corps dispatched (along with other companies) to the Ottoman Empire in 1915 before retreating after an unsuccessful attempt to win control of Constantinople. At this point, ANZAC went to Egypt and split into separate divisions. In 1916, they went to France and fought in the trenches of the Western Front. This is the period that Jim Saddler must have joined the military, since he doesn’t go to Turkey or Egypt in the novel. As such, readers know that Jim came into World War I two years before its conclusion, which took place in 1918.

Other Books Related to Fly Away Peter

Because of its wartime setting, David Malouf’s novel The Great World is reminiscent of Fly Away Peter. Whereas Fly Away Peter takes place during World War I, The Great World is set during World War II. Nevertheless, both books focus on the nature of friendship in trying circumstances and interrogate what it takes to survive—both physically and emotionally—through violent conflict. It’s clear that Malouf is interested in writing about war, as made evident by the fact that Ransom, one of his most revered works, retells a portion of Homer’s The Iliad, which is about the Trojan War. In terms of more recent literature, Fly Away Peter fits in with a number of works about World War I, including R.C. Sherriff’s Journey’s End, which depicts trench warfare in a similar fashion.
Key Facts about Fly Away Peter
  • Full Title: Fly Away Peter
  • When Published: 1982
  • Literary Period: Postmodernism
  • Genre: Novel, Historical Fiction
  • Setting: Australia and Europe during World War I
  • Climax: After having an out-of-body experience on the battle field, Jim makes his way through an otherworldly landscape where he encounters his dead friend Clancy Parkett, who warmly encourages him to dig through a garden to reach “the other side.”
  • Antagonist: The brutality of war
  • Point of View: Third-person omniscient

Extra Credit for Fly Away Peter

A Night at the Opera. The opera version of Fly Away Peter premiered in Sydney in 2015 and was performed by the Sydney Chamber Opera.

Recognition. Fly Away Peter won the Book of the Year award presented by an Australian newspaper called The Age.