Sunday, May 11, 2008

Katherine Mansfield, Author

I went all the way to Berlin to discover the book that is presently feeding my New Zealand soul. There is a truly superb bookshop on Knesebeckstrasse 23 called Marga Schoeller Bucherstube and its English section created something like a small death in this lover of books.

Simply titled Mansfield, the book was written by C K Stead, another famous kiwi writer who confesses to using what is known about one of New Zealand's most famous writers and then creating the missing unknowable pieces based on his research and letters and other material links to her friends - people like DH and Frieda Lawrence, Bertrand Russell, Lutton Strachey, Aldous Huxley, TS Eliot, Viginia Woolf and more of the extraordinary figures from that time during World War One.

Stead writes, This is a work of fiction, therefore employs imagination, guesswork and contrivance. Like every historical novel, it fills as best it can - and sometimes also is glad to exploit - gaps in the record.

Virginia Woolf once famously admitted that Katherine Mansfield had produced ‘the only writing I have ever been jealous of.’.

To explain a little:Katherine's stories were the first of significance in English to be written without a conventional plot. Supplanting the strictly structured plots of her predecessors in the genre (Edgar Allen Poe, Rudyard Kipling, H G Wells), KM concentrated on one moment, a crisis or a turning point, rather than on a sequence of events. The plot is secondary to mood and characters. The stories are innovative in many other ways. They feature simple things - a doll's house or a charwoman. Her imagery, frequently from nature, flowers, wind and colours, set the scene with which readers can identify easily.

Gert was reading over my shoulder on the train back to Antwerpen, only stopping when he realised it was very much a book he wants to read after me.

1 comment:

V-Grrrl said...

I can only recall one time when my husband and I liked the same book...

Devil in the White City by Erik Larsen, which was recommended to me by my friend Neil (the doctor, not the blogger).