A View From Here: A View From Aotearoa-New Zealand
On September 15, submissions for the 5th and latest instalment of the The Aotearoa Blog Carnival closed. The carnival is part of celebrating New Zealand literature and letters as part of New Zealand being the official guest country at the Frankfurt Book Fair this year—which of course is happening 10-14 October, i.e. very soon: w00t to all those Kiwis who’re going to be there!
The theme for the 5th instalment of the Carnival is “A View From Here” and as I said in my post of September 13, I do feel there are many slants and angles into the theme. I have chosen to develop the post into four views, from the micro to the macro, centered on being a writer living in Christchurch, New Zealand: from my study, from Christchurch, from New Zealand, and as expressed through my books.
The post on the view from my study (short and sweet ) is here.
A view from Christchurch is here.
Today I am posting the third view: –
A View From Here: A View From New Zealand
As a New Zealander, I have always perceived our focus as a nation as being very much “out there” to the wider world. Part of that arises, I believe, from being a long narrow country in the middle of the “vasty wilds” of the southern ocean. Many think of Australia as being close, and culturally I feel that is still true: geographically though, it has never been true, except in terms of relativity to the rest of the world. People from other parts of the globe are often surprised to learn, for example, that London is closer to Moscow than either Christchurch or Auckland, New Zealand’s two largest cities, are to Sydney, in Australia.
I believe that our geographic isolation, but also a corresponding interest in and attention to the rest of the world, is a defining part of New Zealand culture. We look outward and are very much migratory birds—flying north for varieties of OE (overseas experience), and in many cases living and working abroad for some time, but in many cases also eventually returning home.
- writer, Katherine Mansfield
- Antarctic explorer and navigator, Frank Worsley
- print and pioneer television journalist, Sir Geoffrey Cox
Others who have returned, whether early or late in their lives, include:
- Air Chief Marshall Sir Keith Park, a key RAF commander in the Battle of Britain
- Author, Janet Frame
- Author and film director, Dame Ngaio Marsh
I believe New Zealand writers tend to “look outward” as well—not necessarily in terms of our subject matter, which can often be almost self-consciously inward looking, but in terms of wishing to engage with the world. Engagement comprises both the aspiration to have our work read and also to participate in international conversations. Because of the tyranny of physical distance that defines us, the internet has become a big part of the contemporary view from here—through the “ether”, if not in person, individuals may now travel to any country and participate in a world of literary conversations.
Novelists based in New Zealand who have bridged the international gap include:
- Keri Hulme : The Bone People, which won the Booker Prize in 1984
- Elizabeth Knox : Dreamquake won the Michael L Printz Award in 2008
- Patricia Grace: won the Neustadt International Prize for Literature, also in 2008, for the body of her work including novels such as Mutuwhenua, Potiki, Dogside Story and Tu