Katherine Mansfield, A Magician with Words

American author Roberta Silman reviews Claire Harman’s new biography of Katherine Mansfield, All Sorts of Lives: Katherine Mansfield and the Art of Risking Everything, for The Art Fuse. Silman speculates, “what Katherine Mansfield might have given us had she lived a normal life span, but we should cherish what we have, as Claire Harman has done so beautifully.”

Claire Harman’s book is timed for the centenary of Katherine Mansfield’s death in 1923, and takes ten of Mansfield’s stories to explore the trajectory of Mansfield’s own life. Meditating on the life and work of “New Zealand’s great treasure” and “a magician with words”, Silman sums up:

“But what is, in the end, most moving is this young woman’s dedication to literature, to her dream of being part of that great river of literary works that runs through the ages. Even when she was close to dying, she was “full of an eager desire to learn, analyze and enjoy” as she read Shakespeare’s plays,. She thought of the masters – Chaucer, Shakespeare, Marlowe, and even Tolstoy – as her “daily bread.” She told her husband’s brother, Richard, “I find that if I stick to [them] I keep much nearer to what I want to do than if I confuse things with reading a lot of lesser men…. [The] more one lives with them the better it is for one’s work. It’s almost a case of living into one’s ideal world – the world that one desires to express.”

Original article by Roberta Silman, The Arts Fuse, March 2023.

Tags: Arts Fuse (The)  Claire Harman  Katherine Mansfield  

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