20 May 2014

New Zealand literary greats

Living 17,000 miles away from my home country it's weird that every day there seems to be surprise from the other side of the globe that makes my heart sing. Whether it be random parcels of treats, messages from family or the rise of great Flat Whites in London coffee shops, reminders pop up everywhere.
 
Wearing a greenstone tiki with pride, a New Zealand flag adorning my home desk and my head popping up every time the rugby is mentioned, it's strange to think how moving so far away has strengthen the ties with my birth place.
 
 
"What can you do if you are thirty and, turning the corner of your own street, you are overcome, suddenly by a feeling of bliss - absolute bliss! - as though you'd suddenly swallowed a bright piece of that late afternoon sun and it burned in your bosom, sending out a little shower of sparks into every particle, into every finger and toe? ... " Katherine Mansfield
 
Every so often though, a pang of homesickness bites, and it's cardboard lined tomes that I turn to, bite sized morsels of the country that keeps my heart. I've said it before but, sadly, New Zealand isn't really known globally for a plethora of literary works (hobbit toes, rugby, amazing scenery and a lot of sheep generally come to mind first). It's such a shame when we have authors like the wistful Katherine Mansfield, evocative Janet Frame and the wonderful Margaret Mahy gracing our library shelves. Then, this year like a lightening bolt, the world literary stage was stolen by Eleanor Catton, the youngest Man Booker Prize winner with her second novel The Luminaries.
 
“Language, at least, may give up the secrets of life and death, leading us through the maze to the original Word as monster or angel, to the mournful place where we may meet Job and hear his cry, 'How long will you vex my soul and break me in pieces with words?”  Janet Frame
 
The Luminaries - Eleanor Catton
 
As school children we were encouraged to read and explore national literary treasures but it has taken more than 20 years for the significance to truly sink in. We in New Zealand have a very small but rather mighty nation, and should celebrate our rich history.
 
“Reading is very creative - it's not just a passive thing. I write a story; it goes out into the world; somebody reads it and, by reading it, completes it.” Margaret Mahy
 
 
The point of my blatherings today? As usual, there's no exciting denouement, thrilling twist or incredibly described destination, just a mild thrill at the thought that there is a Kiwi/Aussie literary festival in town (they don't know me, or that I'm writing this) where I can go to satisfy my latest craving for Kiwi prose and maybe learn a few many things.
 
Man, I love this city.
 
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3 comments :

  1. Lovely post Emma. There is some good English fiction in S Africa but many English-speaking South Africans will agree with me that Afrikaans fiction is diabolical. How nice that you have a local Kiwi book fest!

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    Replies
    1. I'd be curious to read something by a South African by someone from South Africa - my Dad read a lot of Bryce Courtney when I was a kid (so subsequently so did I!) featuring South Africa.
      We are rather lucky, aren't we!

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  2. Don't forget The Bone People by Keri Hulme - love that book

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