Why Katherine Mansfield Still Divides Opinion

In an edited extract from her foreword to Wild Places: Selected Stories by Katherine Mansfield, English author Helen Simpson asks: “How and why did Katherine Mansfield provoke such violent extremes of admiration and hostility, both during her life and after it? How then to account for these violently clashing opinions?”

“One explanation might lie in Mansfield’s keen sense of the absurd and the striking lack of anything deferential in her attitude – whether towards men or anyone powerful or rich or influential. The ‘ripple of laughter’ (a favourite phrase of Mansfield’s) at play throughout her writing could cause offence (particularly coming from a young, upstart, female New Zealander). A sense of humour for a woman is a double-edged sword. When one of her finest tragicomic stories, The Daughters of the Late Colonel, was published, the reviewers found it ‘cruel’; in a 1921 letter Mansfield commented: ‘It’s almost terrifying to be so misunderstood.’

“One explanation might lie in Mansfield’s keen sense of the absurd and the striking lack of anything deferential in her attitude – whether towards men or anyone powerful or rich or influential.”

Original article by Helen Simpson, The Guardian, January 7, 2023.


Tags: Guardian (The)  Katherine Mansfield  

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