Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Book & Print in New Zealand : A Guide to Print Culture in Aotearoa



Although New Zealand has received visits from French travellers since the 18th century, and French immigrants since at least the 1830s, they have never been sufficiently numerous in any one place, at any one time, or sufficiently stable, to generate a print culture of their own. Not even at Akaroa, the site of the only Francophone settlement in this country, does there appear to have been any French-language printing.

The importance of French missionaries and priests in the early history of 19th century Catholicism has meant that there is a substantial body of manuscript material in French created in New Zealand, but this falls outside the limits of this publication.

French texts printed in New Zealand, written by and/or for native speakers, seem to be few in number. Examples identified are an advertisement published in a Wellington newspaper in 1843, targeting the officers and crew of a visiting French warship (New Zealand Gazette and Wellington Spectator, 20 May 1843, p.3), and a letter of thanks written by the ship's commander which appeared in translation (31 May 1843) and in its original French (3 June 1843), in the same newspaper. A wide search in the press may reveal other similar texts, but there is yet no way of gauging their number or interest.

Paradoxically perhaps, and as a reflection of cultural patterns imported from Britain, French has occupied a position in New Zealand's education system (at secondary and tertiary levels) and New Zealand's cultural life out of proportion to the number of native speakers living in the country. This is reflected in the interlocking areas of education, scholarship and general cultural activity.

The substantial market for teaching materials which this created has usually been served by imported books but sometimes by indigenous productions—textbooks, for instance, and supplementary reading materials. The evolution of pedagogical strategies, the introduction of new technologies (records, radio, computers) and curricular changes can be plotted in these works. Still more recently, literary texts which have fallen outside copyright restrictions have been produced by various technologies for university course work. The following titles are only a sampling of the materials which have been sighted:

Victor B. Nicourt, The Otago French Primer for Beginners, Dunedin? 1866

Edmond de Montalk, A Few Preliminary Lessons in French, Dunedin, 1875 (no copy has been located, but its erstwhile existence is proved by newspaper reviews)

Gordon S. Troup, French Broadcasts to Schools, 1961-63, Wellington, Department of Education for the New Zealand Broadcasting Service, 1960

Peter F. Wells, Let's Learn French: A Course for Forms I and II, Auckland and Hamilton, Blackwood & Janet Paul Ltd, 1963, reprinted 1965 (printed in the UK). There also exists a teacher's book. This book was accompanied by gramophone records

Pierre Petit, ed. Français et audio-visuel à l'authentique, Auckland, Department of Romance Languages, University of Auckland, 1985

J.C. Davies, ed. Contes modernes: An Anthology of Contemporary French Prose, Wellington and Auckland, Reed, 1965. Co-published with an Australian publisher and printed in Australia

John Dunmore, ed. Aventures dans le Pacifique, Wellington, Auckland, Sydney, Reed, 1965

Ken Allott, ed. L'Affaire Greenpeace dans la presse française, Christchurch, University of Canterbury, Department of French, 1986.

Ron Leask at al, Meri, Christchurch, Canterbury Education Centre, 1988

A teaching text was produced during World War I to serve a highly specific market, namely New Zealand soldiers serving in France: Hélène Cross (Hélène Fodor), Soldiers' Spoken French, Whitcombe & Tombs, 1917. This went through three editions and one reprint and had a total print run of (probably) over 6,000 copies. The teaching strategies are unexceptional for the time, but word lists, vocabulary, phrases and model texts are carefully focused. Whether any comparable publications were produced during World War II is not known.

Within the universities there exist scholarly journals which occasionally publish articles in French, and students at Massey University have for a number of years produced an entirely French-language magazine; the bilingual journal Antipodes seeks to satisfy both academic and general readers; published conference proceedings occasionally contain texts in French; some New Zealand resident academics have written scholarly works in French but, as far as is known, only one has been published in this country.

AUMLA (originally, and again more recently, edited within the French Department, University of Canterbury), 1953-

New Zealand Journal of French Studies (French Department, Massey University), 1980-

Francophilia Massey (French Department, Massey University), 1989-

Antipodes (French Department, University of Otago), 1995-

Edmund de Montalk, Elements of French Literature, Christchurch, 1879

Some periodicals and newsletters produced by or for groups of language teachers are wholly or partly in French. Two examples are Polyglot, Dunedin, Otago and Southland Association of Language Teachers (1975- ); and Lettre du BCLE, Wellington, Bureau de Coopération Linguistique et Educative, French Embassy (1996- ).

Often on the fringes of the world of secondary schools and universities, are newsletters and magazines, some of which have used both English and French, produced by cultural groups such as branches of the Alliance Française. For example, Alliances, Waikanae, newsletter of the Fédération des Alliances Françaises de Nouvelle-Zélande (1991- ).

Even more ephemeral are menus, posters and theatre programmes. One such, with a synopsis in French, is the programme for a production of Marivaux, L'Ile de la raison, Globe Theatre, Dunedin, July 1996.

The ambitious but short-lived Auckland newspaper, Le Néo-Zélandais: Journal Littéraire et Artistique, 1-18 (1882-86) containing some political commentary, but also articles on literary history and materials for learners of French, catered for a diverse readership. No full set is known to exist but a handful of issues are held by the Hocken Library and the Auckland Institute Museum Library. But to which public did Louis Direy direct his commentary on and partial translation into French of Shakespeare's sonnets (Gisborne, 1890)? The Dunedin monthly, The Triad, which reviewed recent French literary works, did not hesitate to quote in French.

The number and inherent quality of materials in French known to be printed (or published) in New Zealand belie the true extent of the presence of language- and text-based French culture in New Zealand society. Focused within the education system (and often swamped by imported materials), or at its fringes in the in-house publications of cultural groups, the corpus identified to date contains a high proportion of trivial and insubstantial items, although further investigations may well force a revision of this preliminary assessment.

Readily accessible evidence lies in published library catalogues, and 19th-century booksellers' advertisements, auction catalogues, and marks of ownership in individual books all contribute to a broader picture. The picture this material reveals will be usefully supported by a consideration of translations from the French imported into and read in New Zealand: the popular status of Jules Verne and Alexandre Dumas in the 19th century, and the influence of writers like Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre in the 1940s, are potentially rewarding areas of investigation into New Zealand social and intellectual history. The linguistic support is not the same, but the transmission of intellectual and æsthetic values remains a valid area of inquiry.

Finally, it is appropriate to acknowledge the printing of French for export. Labels and packages on products destined for markets in the Pacific for instance, or the compilation and production of tourist materials and official publications—thinly disguised propaganda—should not be overlooked but may be difficult to document since so much of it is ephemeral. A polished example is Portrait de la Nouvelle-Zélande (New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 1995; earlier eds. 1987 and 1991).

Equally elusive, but of interest for the evidence it provides of commercial and cultural exchanges, is the work of New Zealand printers for Pacific Island publishers. Thus, a handsome collection of short stories by a New Caledonian author was reportedly printed in Auckland, but the book carries no evidence of this. Nicolas Kurtovitch (1994), Forêt, terre et tabac, Les Éditions du Niaouli, Nouméa.