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Peter Kocan

© Vincent Long

Peter Kocan

Author and poet Peter Kocan (Brisbane, Australia) was born in Newscastle in 1947. Kocan left school at fourteen to work in country New South Wales as a laborer and station-hand, before returning to Sydney, where he gained work as a factory-hand in a dye factory. In 1966, Kocan’s failed attempt to assassinate federal opposition leader Arthur Calwell in Sydney saw him sentenced to life imprisonment. Later that same year Kocan was transferred from Sydney's infamous Long Bay jail to Morisset hospital for the Criminally Insane. Kocan’s first books of poetry, Ceremonies for the lost (1974) and The Other Side of the Fence (1975), were published while he was at Morisset.

He was released in 1976 and began rebuilding his life by writing about his experiences. Two autobiographical novellas, The Treatment and The Cure, told of his harrowing life in the asylum. The Cure won the 1983 NSW Premier's Literary Award for Fiction.

Kocan lived for many years on the Central Coast of New South Wales, teaching, acting, and writing drama, poetry, and fiction. He gained public recognition for his work and received regular support from the Literary Arts Board of the Australia Council. He graduated from the University of Newcastle in 1998 with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours), and recently obtained a Masters degree.

In 2003, Kocan moved to Brisbane, Queensland.

Fresh Fields, a fictionalised account of Kocan’s difficult youth, was named a Book of the Year by the Times Literary Supplement.

All Peter Kocan's books

Latest reviews

  • Set in the 1960s, this harrowing coming-of-age tale features an unnamed 14-year-old Australian boy with a troubled past. As the book opens, he, his mother, and his younger brother are leaving his abusive father to make a life on their own. With his mother unable to care for both...
    — Jun 13 2007
  • Three people arrive at the train station of a large city: The woman, the youth and the boy. We don't know their names, nor that of the city. They are fleeing Vladimir, an abusive husband and father. The 14-year-old youth knows he doesn't have the will to fight him. What inner...
    — Mar 15 2007
  • Australian writer Kocan, who spent 10 years imprisoned for attempted murder, unflinchingly renders the isolation, grief and longing of a troubled outsider in this dire, semiautobiographical novel. Having fled a violent home with his mother and younger brother, an unnamed 14-year-old...
    — Mar 13 2007
  • from Quadrant Peter Kocan’s new novel, Fresh Fields, is a stark, harrowing, yet deeply courageous work of immense power and magnitude. It was fashionable some years ago for literary critics to search the horizon, Ahab-like, for the Great Australian Novel. If this...
    — Aug 3 2006
  • No novel I read this year, from anywhere, equalled Peter Kocan 's bleak Fresh Fields. A Sydney teenager, only ever called the Youth, is driven out of home and, by way of a few abortive jobs up country, drifts into living rough in the central city. He develops an intellectual...
    — Aug 3 2006
  • Pivotal chapter in Peter Kocan's life I'm probably raving on a bit," says Peter Kocan. He's not. It's just eloquent concern about the state of the world from a highly intelligent man who knows his literature, history and philosophy. It...
    — May 14 2006