International Stage for NZ Writing
Acclaimed literature almanac, the Griffith Review, has devoted an entire issue to New Zealand poetry, fiction, non-fiction, art and photography. Award-winning author of Mister Pip, Lloyd Jones, has been brought in as guest editor of the Australian quarterly publication, working alongside editorial mainstay Julianne Schultz.
They have selected a wide range of essays, memoir, stories and poems by New Zealand’s finest writers, whose work is loosely corralled around the themes of South Pacific identity amid several decades of wrenching social change.
Featuring art by Bill Hammond on the cover, the issue features Ian Wedde’s emotional account of the late Ralph Hotere’s tangi, an occasion to examine the many tensions in New Zealand society and Hotere’s role as an artist in bridging the cultural gap between Maori and Pakeha.
The New Zealand edition, says the Griffith Review, “is a profound overview of a complex Pacific nation with a polyphony of voices [that] will challenge what you thought you knew and inspire you to think again”.
Christchurch-based books and art critic Philip Matthews has reviewed the edition and notes that guest editor Jones’ scepticism about a fixed New Zealand identity riddles the author’s fiction. Matthews implies this suspicion around cultural tropes drove his selection of Kate De Goldi’s essay about the paradox of Margaret Mahy.
One of New Zealand’s most beloved authors, Mahy’s work is “in so many ways ardently un-New Zealand,” De Goldi writes. “Or at least ardently not the New Zealand we have, over time, assumed is the proper subject and setting for our fiction.”
Our country has changed and changed rapidly, and our contemporary fiction does, in many ways, illustrate the yawning chasm between persistent myths about New Zealand culture and the harsh, beautiful, perplexing and frustrating reality of civic and rural life in the 21st Century.