Ali Smith Marvels at Katherine Mansfield’s Letters
New Zealand novelist Kirsty Gunn was in London recently listening to Scottish author Ali Smith talk about Katherine Mansfield. Gunn’s article about the event appears in The Scotsman.
“[Smith’s] talk, hosted by the Katherine Mansfield International Society, was part of a terrific two-day conference about the New Zealand-born short story writer of classics such as ‘Prelude’ and ‘The Doll’s House’ and representative of an ongoing project, comprising lectures and symposia and a publishing initiative with Edinburgh University Press, to bring the author’s life and work more fully into the centre of British letters,” Gunn writes.
“The society was established exactly ten years ago by Gerri Kimber, the scholar and critic who, with colleagues and fellow writers, was determined to extend the reputation of a writer whose contribution to English language fiction had, until then, gone largely unmarked outside her native country and France.
“It was at that inaugural conference that I first met Vincent O’Sullivan, one of the world’s greatest Mansfield scholars, who, along with Margaret Scott, was an early forerunner in the entire KM studies game, having co-edited the Complete Letters of Katherine Mansfield for Oxford University Press that Ali said sit upon her desk in all their five-volume, yellow-bound splendour. I keep thinking about those letters. The weight of them. The impact they might make upon a writer …
“How they open up our sense of what writing can be, those pages and pages of communication from a writer to her friends and family and world, that we may use them to look about us with a greater sense of wonder and astonishment and sense of possibility. Indeed, that word ‘possible’, Ali showed us in her talk, makes anything possible.”
Gunn, author of Rain and The Big Music, is professor of writing practice at the University of Dundee. She is also patron of the Katherine Mansfield International Society.
Original article by Kirsty Gunn, The Scotsman, July 2, 2018.