Katherine Mansfield’s Inscrutability Intrigues
In the acclaimed biography La Vida Breve di Katherine Mansfield, written by famed Italian literary critic and author Pietro Citati, the New Zealand-born writer’s stories are described as having the special quality of “distance”. The biography, which was first published in 1980, has just been reprinted in Italy.
“Even when she shared the thoughts and feelings of her characters,” Citati writes, “[Mansfield] never entered them, did not go through the walls” separating them, as if a thin glass sheet were interposed between the author and the work. Mansfield’s muse was not purity, says the critic, but distance.
Friends DH Lawrence and Virginia Woolf wrote of her: “[Mansfield] remains inscrutable, inscrutable say, like a kind of cat, strange, secretive, always alone, an observer.”
What makes her short stories is the absence of the usual descriptive information such as the place where the action takes place, or physical descriptions. In them there is no long suspense, and after the last line is narrated everything seems to vanish like when someone erases the writing chalk on a blackboard.
Mansfield left New Zealand at the age of 19 and settled in the United Kingdom. She died of tuberculosis in Fontainebleau in 1923.
Original article by P. Unamano, El Mundo, October 1, 2016.