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The first anthology of New Zealand literature bringing together fiction and non-fiction, poetry and prose into one volume was launched at The University of Auckland yesterday.
The 1184-page Anthology of New Zealand Literature, published by Auckland University Press (AUP), and edited by Jane Stafford and Mark Williams ranges across a broad landscape of New Zealand writing from the earliest records of exploration and encounter to the globalised, multicultural present.
“Like ‘a knife through time’, the collection traverses the centuries, from Te Horeta encountering James Cook in the 1760s to the latest graduate of the creative writing class in the 2000s,” write the editors in their introduction.
“If there is a persistent focus throughout the two hundred years covered in this volume, it is the way in which writers have fashioned their surroundings into imaginative language.”
Among 380 texts there are excerpts from the notebooks of Katherine Mansfield, Thomas Bracken’s New Zealand Hymn – a 1876 precursor to the our modern God Defend New Zealand, and Dylan Horrocks cartoon from Hicksville 1998. “General Hints on Gardening” from Yates Garden Guide for Australia and New Zealand, 1897 feature as do “Cooking Hints” from the Sure to Rise Cookery Book, 1914.
“The editors wanted to produce an anthology that was a conversation and not a canon,” explains the Director of AUP Sam Elworthy. “By putting Yates Gardening Guide next to Katherine Mansfield’s ‘Woman at the Store’, they hope readers will gain more insight into both pieces of writing and the larger culture too.”
Most of New Zealand’s leading writers from last century feature in the anthology. Robin Hyde, R.A.K Mason, Allen Curnow, Frank Sargeson and Denis Glover are among them. The works of more recent literary luminaries such as poets Robert Sullivan, Michele Leggott and Anne Kennedy, writers Emily Perkins, Damien Wilkins and Hamish Clayton, also feature.
Janet Frame and Vincent O’Sullivan, and author of the landmark Once Were Warriors, Alan Duff are missing from the anthology because the editors weren’t able to secure permission from their estates or publishers.
“Great anthologies offer just one path into a country’s literature,” says Elworthy. “This is just one rather interesting, illuminating path through New Zealand writing. There are other paths and people should take them.””