Fretful Sleepers and Other Essays
The Recognition of Reality
The Recognition of Reality
This essay was originally written as a talk given at a conference on Commonwealth literature at the University of Leeds in September 1964, and was printed in Commonwealth Literature, ed. John Press (Heinemann Educational Books, London, 1965).
I found when I began to think about New Zealand writing in terms of inheritance and adaptation that the metaphor was rather inflexible. It was not, to extend the metaphor, a question of a shifted plant having to adapt itself to new soil and climate; but a question of the shifted people and their descendants having to reorient their own consciousness, drop old assumptions about themselves and have the courage to make new ones, a question of their learning to recognise themselves in the limitations of their time and place and in their new relation to neighbouring peoples. I assume that collectively it is the function of a nation's artists, modifying Stephen Dedalus's words, to forge the conscience of their race, to provide a moral and imaginative context in which their people can feel, think, and behave. New Zealand's development towards an independent literature has been marked, like I suppose that of any other, by false trails, difficulty, personal suffering, and sweat. The hardest thing has been the recognition of reality.
I do not propose to trace this development; it has already been done in E. H. McCormick's survey, and in the introductions by D. M. Davin, R. M. Chapman, and Allen Curnow to their anthologies.1 All I intend to do is to provide some illustrations that I find illuminating in this emergence of the conscience of a people.
The settlers who arrived in their hundreds of thousands in the later nineteenth century, were mainly British men and women of the working and lower middle class whose minds had been formed in the middle nineteenth century. Inheritance in the form of the mores they brought with them has been a hindrance rather than a stimulus to writing, but as Robert Chapman has shown,2 it determined the themes of fiction for the first half of this century. The settlers, by means of Government buying and by page 138 persuasion and force and fraud had by the end of the century expropriated most of the usable land from the indigenous people who had occupied it for at least eight hundred years. By the end of the century they had established an economic relationship with the mother country by which New Zealand was an outlying farm providing food and wool to the metropolis. It is only in the last few years that there has been any threat to this relationship. The energies of the settlers went into the conversion of untilled land to pasture that would carry crops of butter, meat, and wool; other pursuits were considered inferior and some of them even harmful to material prosperity.
To some extent New Zealand began without a literary inheritance because—apart from very early settlers like Samuel Butler and Lady Barker, who did not stay—these land-hungry settlers were not a reading lot. From the 1890s until the accession of a Labour Government in 1935 their values dominated the country—the values of the puritanical hard-working small farmer. It was a morality hostile to the imagination, to art, even to reading since reading wasted time; it was embarrassed by the exhibition of emotion, except perhaps righteous envy and anger; it valued the practical man, even the handy man, more than the thinker. It wasn't a good time for a writer to be born, yet it is out of this time that the first signs of an assured and distinctive note in New Zealand writing emerged.
In some ways the atmosphere worked against clarity of vision; the truth couldn't be faced without sentimentality or deprecation and often enough was better ignored. Some examples of this I can illustrate from stories from Mr Davin's anthology:
[In this story a boy and his parents call on a neighbouring spinster whose mother has just died. There is a horse tied outside and they know she has taken a lover.]
'I did see the horse,' insisted Walter, and felt that like all older people his parents were in some sort of conspiracy against his finding things out. 'I did see the horse.'
'Of course you saw the damned horse,' said his father suddenly. 'Shut up about it, that's all.'
Jim was walking past, carrying a bottle with a straw stuck in it. They looked away and pretended they hadn't noticed but Auntie Laurel said quietly to Mum, Fancy bringing it out here, where everyone's having their lunch.
'Mother, mother, I know why the little boy hasn't got a father. It's 'cause he was killed at the war.'
'Margot, go inside at once.'
Mrs Chatterton stamped her foot, her voice broke shrilly.
'Margot! Do as I say, at once! And don't have so much to say for yourself.'
A people made up of Walter's father, Auntie Laurel, Mrs Chatterton page 139 and their like would hardly welcome a fiction which might display them in action and invite them to self-analysis.
One can see the oppressiveness in Blanche Baughan's story, 'An Active Family'. Miss Baughan came to New Zealand in 1900 when she was thirty. She was a sensitive and cultured woman, uneasy at the materialism of her new home and eventually she turned her energies from writing to championship of penal reform. In this story she celebrates the virtues of the very people whose ethos (I suspect) discouraged the creative impulse in her: her subject is a fanatically hard-working family—self-contained, independent, affectionate within the group—breaking in a farm. It is obvious that Miss Baughan is anxious not to be 'critical': almost every adjective, even the nouns and verbs, carry their load of approval or apologia. She even wishfully supplies what she missed, an appreciation of the arts, when Dad after his furious week's work sits down at the piano to play Schubert. Yet there is a question she does not ask: what is all this activity for? The family is breaking in the farm with the sole aim of selling it at improved value so they can buy another and break that in and presumably continue doing this till they sell up and retire in comfort— if they have lived long enough.
What I am saying is that Miss Baughan could imaginatively handle some of the reality around her but not all of it. A contrast with Lady Barker's sketch in the same anthology will make this clearer. She was in the country three or four years and because she knew she was returning and because her position as the only gentlewoman on her husband's sheep-station gave her an assurance almost aristocratic, she was able to see more clearly than writers of fifty years later. For example, she could notice without embarrassment or fear of accusations of vanity that the shepherds at her open-air Christmas dinner were uncomfortable while she remained, yet would be offended if she went away. I think Miss Baughan would have parried off such a thought.
Alice Webb was a writer who tried in a quiet and earnest way to consider moral and social problems as they presented themselves to women inclined to philosophize over a cup of tea, such problems as whether mothers' helps were overpaid, whether English war brides were as worthless as rumour said, whether clergymen had a soft job. Her most searching examination of conscience is 'The Patriot', and she asks the question whether the farmer who volunteered with his horse to fight in the First World War had made as great a sacrifice as his partner who stayed behind to manage the farm, doing two men's work without glory or complaint. As far as it goes it is a judicious question. But what she does not question is the rightness of '14-'l8 jingoism and because of this her story is denied the breadth that might have made it less parochial. One aspect of reality that the earlier writers did not examine was themselves and their own assumptions.
If Katherine Mansfield had stayed in New Zealand it is possible that page 140 her writing, in keeping with the moral climate of the country, would have been harsher and more austere, as it is in her early story, 'The Woman at the Store'. Expatriation was the price she paid for self-realisation as a writer, but imaginative repatriation is the impulse of some of her best later stories, those she wrote in homage to her young brother, killed in the war. 'I can't say how thankful I am to have been born in New Zealand, to know Wellington as I do, and have it to range about in', she wrote in her last year. It is these stories that have most attraction to New Zealanders and yet if she is still probably the best-known of our writers outside New Zealand, she had little influence either on her contemporaries or on subsequent writers. She found a way for herself, but it was one that others could not follow.
Some tried, or hoped for, emigration. It was almost impossible to get an imaginative book published at home—the population was not much over a million—and space for stories and verse in newspapers and magazines was limited, and sometimes unpaid. A generation of writers grew up who could only accommodate themselves to their situation by free-lance journalism and the hope of a book published in London, a market seen through a haze of outdated notions. If England had been home to Butler and Lady Barker, it became Home to a generation fifty to seventy years later, even though they were born in New Zealand: their spiritual Hawaiki and, if they could make it, their spiritual Mecca. Of those who emigrated it is only those who either returned or maintained their imaginative connection with New Zealand who achieved anything—Jane Mander, Alan Mulgan, D'Arcy Cresswell, A. R. D. Fairburn, M. H. Holcroft. Those who stayed away—John Guthrie is the most distinguished of them—did not fulfil their promise: it was a mistake to think that their modest talents could transplant. Yet the dilemma was real enough, and there is ambiguity in Fairburn's comment on it, written after it had passed:
I'm Older than You, Please Listen
To the young man I would say:
Get out! Look sharp, my boy,
before the roots are down,
before the equations are struck,
before a face or a landscape
has power to shape or destroy.
This land is a lump without leaven,
a body that has no nerves.
Don't be content to live in
a sort of second-grade heaven
with first-grade butter, fresh air,
and paper in every toilet;
becoming a butt for the malice
page 141 of those who have stayed and soured,
staying in turn to sour,
to smile, and savage the young.
If you're enterprising and able,
smuggle your talents away,
hawk them to livelier markets
where people are willing to pay.
If you have no stomach for roughage,
if patience isn't your religion,
if you must have sherry with your bitters,
if money and fame are your pigeon,
if you feel that you need success,
and long for a good address,
don't anchor here in the desert—
the fishing isn't so good:
take a ticket to Megalopolis,
don't stay in this neighbourhood!
The difficulty for the writer who stayed at home was to achieve imaginative integrity; working alone in an atmosphere of discouragement it was not easy to relate his literary inheritance to his actual experience, to sort out what experience was important to him and his neighbours, even to know how he felt about his experience. It is not surprising that a number of minor talents with only their talents and a desire to write to sustain them were tempted into poses and pretensions—attitudinizing, sentimentality, trick endings, whimsy, fantasy: Ngaio Marsh and M. H. Holcroft (in their early writing) were not immune. Of a collection of twenty-five stories published in 1930 I find only four, none of them good, which strike me as reflecting anything real about New Zealand at all; of a collection of twenty published in 1938 again only four.3 I will illustrate. In one of them the driver and fireman of a train carrying the Governor-General get drunk and hit top speed for the boast of having given the Governor a fright. There is a colonial egalitarianism about it that rings true. In another, a Scots settler takes his bride to a sod hut on a farm, neglects her for the farm; she is bitter and is tempted to run off with his mate, who when he returns to claim her a year later finds her content and engrossed in a baby. In another, a young farmer's efforts to break in land are not appreciated by his family who want a town life; they leave and he stays to marry a local girl who he thinks will help him but her plans are to persuade him to sell up and move to town. In the fourth, a man in the backblocks longs for escape to sea but is loyal to his responsibilities first to his mother and when he marries, to his wife and family. When his family grow up, he runs away as far as the Auckland waterfront, takes fright and goes home to find that his wife too has dreamt of freedom and left. I have said that these are not good stories, but they are the only ones in this collection in which the page 142 plot derives from some reality in New Zealand life and is not a cliche or arbitrary construct set against a New Zealand background.
The greatest indignity, to my mind, was The New Zealand Artists' Annual (1926-32) produced by an unlikely combination of writers and cartoonists; alternately pretentious and apologetic, always self-conscious, it strikes a modern reader as wanting to demonstrate that the writer was a philistine like anyone else but he must be allowed his moments of soulfulness. Yet three years before this publication had started, one poet working alone and without audience had stoically achieved the miracle of dignity and integrity. He had not left the country, had in fact written, 'I think I have no other home than this'. He had written some of these poems before he was nineteen, and he published them himself. The difficulty of his achievement is apparent in this poem; so is the fact that his allegiance was to an inheritance quite foreign to his immediate community:
Song of Allegiance
Shakespeare Milton Keats are dead
Donne lies in a lowly bed
Shelley at last calm doth lie
knowing 'whence we are and why'
Byron Wordsworth both are gone
Coleridge Beddoes Tennyson
Housman neither knows nor cares
how 'this heavy world' now fares
Little clinging grains enfold
all the mighty minds of old . . .
They are gone and I am here
stoutly bringing up the rear
Where they went with limber ease
toil I on with bloody knees
Though my voice is cracked and harsh
stoutly in the rear I march
Though my song have none to hear
boldly bring I up the rear.
New Zealand now had the beginnings of a poetic inheritance of its own. Mason's example and that of Ursula Bethell—brought out by an obscure London publisher—and the fact that the depression of the 'thirties made young intellectuals question the hollow orthodoxies of their community, made it comparatively easy for a younger generation of poets to follow: A. R. D. Fairburn, Allen Curnow, Denis Glover, D'Arcy Cresswell Charles Brasch, Basil Dowling. One of them set up the press, the Caxton, that was to publish them. A national inheritance of verse had been page 143 established by 1940, and if since 1950 a group of younger poets has challenged it, their position is still in relation to it. This group which includes James K. Baxter, Louis Johnson and Alistair Campbell and younger poets, see the development not as Mr Curnow has presented it as a search for reality culminating in Mason and the Caxton poets who have made the younger poets possible, but as a growth towards maturity and freedom from the preoccupations of time and place evident in those older poets. They have concerned themselves more with urban and international themes and with urban personal relations. And yet I feel there has always been something unreal about the argument, except the spirit of gang warfare in which it has sometimes been conducted. It misrepresents Mr Curnow's performance both as editor and poet to say that the verse he admires or writes is concrete only in a local or regional way, or that the themes of Mason, Fairburn, and Glover have no more than local relevance; on the other hand, many of Baxter's and Campbell's poems are fairly precisely 'located' in the backblocks and some of Johnson's in suburbs of the welfare state. There has, in any case, been no obstacle to publication. Since the inception of state patronage of literature after the war and Mr Johnson's foundation of the Poetry Yearbook, which he has edited since 1951, poetry, if only because production costs are cheaper, has become the least difficult form of writing to publish; certainly easier to publish than it was in Mason's time.
Almost contemporary with the political defeat of the small farmers' party in 1935, Frank Sargeson's sketches and stories began to appear in a left-wing journal Tomorrow, which ran for five years. Mr Sargeson's first sketches were modest and deceptively inconsequential. What strikes one about them at first is their unpretentiousness, their apparent artlessness; yet Mr Sargeson is a man deeply versed in an inheritance European, American and Australian. Seen against the stories in the collections I have mentioned the distinction of his is that they never overreach. He set out to undermine respectability by exposing the dead tissue in the minds of the spiritually dead and revealing points of growth in the minds of the spiritually alive, whom he most often found among social outcasts and underdogs. He had travelled, and returning had worked single-mindedly as a writer. He was more fortunate than Mason in that he soon found an editor and later a publisher (the Caxton Press) willing to publish him. In A Man and his Wife (1940) he had achieved a sense of identity and of audience; he could write for his community without the mediation of London, without the occasional self-consciousness one finds say in Robin Hyde or John A. Lee. However, it was reassuring that he had been accepted by the American New Directions and John Lehmann's New Writing.
Mr Sargeson had done what Katherine Mansfield had not, had cleared some tracks that others might confidently follow: only his senior in age and date of first publication, John A. Lee, and his more-or-less contemporaries in first publication, Roderick Finlayson and John Mulgan, can be said to page 144 be independent of him. Those who to a greater or lesser degree are indebted to him include Dan Davin, A. P. Gaskell, John Reece Cole, David Ballantyne, Janet Frame, O. E. Middleton, Maurice Duggan, Phillip Wilson, and Bruce Mason. Mr Sargeson I think established—or at least extended—a tradition in New Zealand fiction of liberal humanism, tolerance, sympathy for the little man and an intolerance of pretension. An outsider could say 'Well, you'll find all that in Fielding'. But it had to be done in local terms. A more recent group of writers of fiction—Ian Cross, Sylvia Ashton-Warner, Maurice Shadbolt, Noel Hilliard, M. K. Joseph, Marilyn Duckworth, Maurice Gee—have grown up independently of him, but it would be fair to say that their success would have been less possible without Frank Sargeson's break-through. There has not been among prose-writers the same polarisation into generations and factions as among the poets and Mr Sargeson's eminence is generally recognised.
I was surprised to find that the number of New Zealand writers of fiction of merit who have appeared since Sargeson is more than thirty. In the last seven years the market within New Zealand for New Zealand novels and stories has grown considerably. It reflects the fact that the country is going through an introspective phase, one of self-analysis and self-criticism. I find this a hopeful sign. It is good for us that our readers and critics are of our community, that we don't stand or fall by the chance notice of a reviewer in one of the half-dozen London quality journals, coping with his weekly batch. A good many of the books that are important in our history have not been noticed in London, and often it is obscure publishers who have brought them out. But the only thing surprising in this is that it took us so long to learn to stand on our own feet.
Expatriation is no longer a problem. All writers have felt the need to get out for a while to see the wider world. Of recent writers who have stayed away longer than others, almost all—James Courage, Dan Davin, David Ballantyne—have kept up the imaginative connection with home; Rewi Alley in China would be the only exception I can call to mind.
One aspect of New Zealand experience that I have deferred is the relationship of the European occupiers to the six per cent minority of Maoris. If it was a tenet of critical theory in the 'forties that New Zealanders had yet to come to terms with a landscape alien and unfriendly, it was overlooked that the pre-European Maori had in myth and settlement already come to terms with it. If M. H. Holcroft could see the landscape as without history it was because the landscape he was looking at was in the comparatively unsettled south: in many parts of the Auckland Province the hills are topped by the sites of old fortified villages whose history, forgotten even in Maori tradition, is accessible only to archaeological excavation. In the Poetry Review, summer 1964, Howard Sergeant quotes Miss M. J. O'Donnell's remark that 'the life and history of the Maori people, with its ancient romantic legends and mythology' is 'as yet page 145 unexplored'. Mr Sergeant says she is wrong because Allen Curnow and others have dealt with Maori mythology. But neither is quite right. Allen Curnow's play The Axe deals with culture-contact in Mangaia, one of the Cook Islands, several thousand miles from New Zealand: otherwise his contribution in this respect has been confined to collaborating in translating a number of pieces of traditional Maori poetry. Miss O'Donnell is wrong in describing Maori traditions as 'romantic'; it was one of the false tracks of the nineteenth-century poets to romanticise such Maori myths as appealed to them—particularly the story of Hinemoa and Tutanekai. But it is regrettable that to most pakehas the traditional Maori myths, prettified and bowdlerised, have no higher status than children's reading.
The recognition (in something like its political sense) of another contiguous culture has not been easy for pakehas generally, let alone their writers. The early colonists, for obvious reasons, were not prone to examine their attitudes to the people they had dispossessed. Double standards were apparent: Alfred Domett could turn his literary character Tangi-Moana into an epic hero, 'a God-made King of men', but as a politician speaking in the New Zealand Assembly in 1860 he could describe an actual chief as a 'marauding cannibal and free-booter'. Alfred A. Grace certainly had human sympathy for the Maori and preferred Maori ways to the self-righteousness of pakeha ways, and in this vein he could write of the Maori as a lovable good-humoured cunning rogue. But in another work he writes a sentimental and romantic love-story of pre-European Maoris, and in yet another he started the comic stereotype, still with us, of shrewd, simple-minded, happy-go-lucky Hori. The three attitudes do not easily fit. Between Grace's last (1910) and Finlayson's first (1938) most pakeha writers turned their attention away from Maoris as many of them were living at the time, withdrawn in rural slums, dispossessed and without much hope or interest in pakeha society. Yet fundamentally in most of the writing about Maoris from after the land wars to the depression, there is a feeling of guilt about and a distaste for the contemporary Maori. The novels of the land wars that show him as fierce and treacherous or fierce and brave seek to justify his current condition: either he deserved his defeat or he lost in fair fight. Only Satchell's The Greenstone Door (1914) sees the tragedy of the conflict. Those who wrote about the pre-European Maori looked away from the present to a noble past, interpreted according to nineteenth-century European literary attitudes, seeing him as a heroic but pathetic victim inevitably sacrificed to Progress. Those who saw him as a comic figure saw him as a kind of pet and implied that his current condition was the way he liked to live. The Australian Henry Lawson's one story of Maoris states clearly that universal brotherhood is all very well, but you can't extend it to Maoris.
After Grace, Roderick Finlayson was the first to see in Maori life an alternative to the coldness and selfishness of pakeha society, though it is interesting to note that this theme, like several others, is prefigured in page 146 Katherine Mansfield, in her story 'How Pearl Button was Kidnapped' (1910). But in Mr Finlayson the Maoris become symbols of a simpler and more 'natural' life. In his story 'The Totara Tree', where electric power board officers try to cut down a tree that is sacred to an old woman, Mr Finlayson is objecting not only to pakeha disrespect for Maori sensibility but to electrification itself, an objection not in fact shared by Maoris. Mr Finlayson is best when he is describing, observing sympathetically; he is less successful when he tries to enter the minds of his characters; their thoughts are too trite and simple, and since their passions are simple he solves their problems by simple, violent solutions—suicide, murder, revenge. His attitude implies a lack of sympathy for what has happened since, the migration of young Maoris to the cities in search of employment, a mixed attitude to the advances in health and education, greater participation of Maoris in the general life.
This migration has enabled a number of writers of short stories to write sympathetically of Maori individuals they have met. There is still, however, an incomplete appreciation of the distinctness of Maori communal life and of cultural features that Maoris prefer to retain—a different kinship system, a sense of belonging to an extended family of 100-odd members rather than to a 'nuclear family' of Mum, Dad, and the kids; a sense of the obligations of aroha (fellow-feeling) towards friends and relatives in need; the desire to congregate; the admiration of courtesy, generosity, sociability, and hospitality; the distaste for pakeha stinginess and coldness, greed and calculation. But the stereotype of the Maori as feckless, jolly and without complexity or stress is becoming less frequent in writing.
Of contemporary writers Noel Hilliard is the only one to realise all of these features and to catch the spirit of Maori life. Like Finlayson he is best when he is sympathetically observing. Netta in Maori Girl is a pathetic victim of social forces, but to prove his point he denies her the victory over circumstances that it was in her character to achieve, and he is not always convincing when he enters her mind. It is significant that Sylvia Ashton-Warner in Spinster is convincing in her Maori children; less so in her Maori adults; and that among the best imaginative writing about Maoris in recent years are three or four children's books about modern Maori children.
Of course the only authentic expression of a Maori view can come from Maoris themselves, and in recent years there has been the emergence of a a group of Maori painters and some writers in English. The difference in attitude can be illustrated by quotation.
Noel Hilliard in this passage is comic, sensitive, and accurate:
Later the children were sent out while the grown-ups discussed whether Wai should wear white or not. Mum and the other relations wanted white but some of the older women, and the vicar's warden were insisting on a colour. 'What's it got to do with all them what page 147 Auntie Wai wears?' Bubby asked. 'It's something you'll find out by and by,' Mum said. So they sat on the veranda playing Last-card while the voices hummed on in the sitting-room for nearly an hour. Towards the end they could hear Dad, and he sounded as if he had his temper up: 'She can get married in her pyjamas if she wants to!' When Bubby was called in to take around the cakes for supper, she could tell from Mum's smile that white had won.4
Mr Hilliard, to some extent an outsider, has recognized his limitation in making the observer a small girl, only partly privy to adult deliberations. In this passage from a Maori writer, Rowley Habib, there is a sense of belonging. It is after a burial:
By the apple-trees a group of women were busying themselves with their shawls. Two of them were lifting their babies onto their backs, and they bounced them around a little to settle them more comfortably in the blankets. Down by the Hepis' fence the priest was talking with old Doc and Tita. He was gesturing slowly with his hands and now and then he would look across the paddock at the sun. Everyone was talking about the beautiful day, everything except the burial.5
A pakeha writer—though not Mr Hilliard—describing the same scene might have been arrested by aspects unfamiliar to him and have sought a metaphor for the women with the babies in their shawls, an image that would make them memorable and fix them, like a tourist's camera, so that no deeper meaning could be penetrated.
And if pakeha writers in the 'thirties and 'forties saw the landscape as alien and without a past, Hone Tuwhare's attitude, always deeply attached, is very different. Mr Tuwhare is indebted technically and personally to R. A. K. Mason, who introduces his first collection, about to be published in New Zealand. In this poem he returns to his ancestral homeland in Northland, seeing land once covered in forest now scarred by soil erosion. I have to provide a few glosses: manuka is a scrub, rather like a tall heath and has white or pink blossom something like a small apple flower; its leaves often have a reddish tinge. Mana means something between authority and prestige: high standing. The marae, here deserted through depopulation, was the open-air site of communal gatherings; it is always adjoined by two halls for accommodating guests and feeding them: it is these that have the rotting eaves.
Not by Wind Ravaged
not by wind ravaged nor rain
nor the brawling stream:
stripped of all save the brief finery
of gorse and broom; and standing
page 148 sentinel to your bleak loneliness
the tussock grass—
O voiceless land, let me echo your desolation.
The mana of my house has fled,
the marae is but a paddock of thistle.
I come to you with a bitterness
that only your dull folds can soothe
for I know, I know
my melancholy chants shall be lost
to the wind's shriek about the rotting eaves.
Distribute my nakedness—
Unadorned I come with no priceless
offering of jade-and-bone curio: yet
to the wild berry shall I give
a tart piquancy; enhance for a deathless
space the fragile blush of manuka . . .
You shall bear all and not heed.
In your huge compassion embrace
those who know no feeling other
of this I lament my satisfaction
for it is as full as a beggar's cup:
no less shall the dust of avaricious men
succour exquisite blooms with moist lips parting
to the morning sun.
Natural elements in Mr Tuwhare's verse are humanised and dramatised in a way that would be false in pakeha convention. (The sea-egg is the sea-urchin; the paua a shellfish.):
and the sun's feet
shall twinkle and flex
to the sea-egg's needling
and the paua's stout kiss
shall drain a rock's heart
to the sand-bar's booming.
That his themes are not confined to his situation in his country is evident from the title-poem of his collection No Ordinary Sun, which is the Bomb, and from this poem which needs no gloss:page 149
Time and the Child
Tree earth and sky
reel to the noontide beat
of sun and the old man
hobbling down the road.
of sun-drowned cicada
in a child's voice shrilling:
. . . are you going man?
Where are going man where
The old man is deaf
to the child.
His stick makes deep
holes in the ground.
His eyes burn to a distant point
where all roads converge. . . .
The child has left his toys
and hobbles after the old
man calling: funny man funny man
funny old man funny
Overhead the sun paces
and buds pop and flare.
I have spent so much time on Mr Tuwhare not as a culmination or as a prize exhibit but because the entry of a viewpoint of different inheritance will be important to us. The Maori writer will have to draw on reserves of strength and integrity to resist the pakeha image of him, difficult enough amidst the confusions resulting from the pressure of pakeha society, in the name of 'integration', to assimilate him, turn him into a brown pakeha in outlook and aspiration. I once thought that the Maori writer would have difficulty reaching a Maori audience (I do not suggest that he will, or should, write exclusively for Maoris) but having observed the attentive and warm response to Mr Tuwhare's reading from an unprepared and unliterary Maori audience, I no longer think this is so—though he is less likely to reach them through print than through speech. New Zealand life will be greatly enriched if we can learn to see the country and its life through the eyes of a number of Maori writers.
I hope I have shown that as I see it the problem in New Zealand has been the recognition of truths about ourselves, both pakeha and Maori, and about the country; an acceptance of our time and place as a prerequisite to writing that can, if it wishes, take it for granted and forget it.
1. E.H. McCormick, New Zealand Literature: A Survey, 1959; D.M. Davin (ed.), New Zealand Short Stories, 1953; R.M. Chapman and Jonathan Bennett (eds.), An Anthology of New Zealand Verse, 1956; Allen Curnow (ed.), The Penguin Book of New Zealand Verse, 1960.
2. 'Fiction and the Social Pattern', Landfall, March 1953, reprinted in Wystan Curnow (ed.), Essays on New Zealand Literature, Heinemann Educational Books Ltd, 1973.
4. 'Auntie Wai's Wedding', A Piece of Land, 1963.
5. 'The Burial', Te Ao Hou, vol. 5, no. 2, 1957.
1 E.H. McCormick, New Zealand Literature: A Survey, 1959; D.M. Davin (ed.), New Zealand Short Stories, 1953; R.M. Chapman and Jonathan Bennett (eds.), An Anthology of New Zealand Verse, 1956; Allen Curnow (ed.), The Penguin Book of New Zealand Verse, 1960.
2 'Fiction and the Social Pattern', Landfall, March 1953, reprinted in Wystan Curnow (ed.), Essays on New Zealand Literature, Heinemann Educational Books Ltd, 1973.
4 'Auntie Wai's Wedding', A Piece of Land, 1963.
5 'The Burial', Te Ao Hou, vol. 5, no. 2, 1957.