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New Zealand

A History of New Zealand Literature is a rewarding collection replete with the pleasure of new information that is both strange and strangely familiar. I commend it for both its intrinsic interest and, for Australian readers in particular, as one means of redressing Australia and New Zealand’s mutual ignorance of each other’s literary histories and cult ...

Potiki by Patricia Grace

November 2016, no. 386

At the outbreak of World War II, the British novelist Anna Kavan began a journey around the world that brought her, ultimately, to New Zealand. Her two years there in a ...

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This volume, which complements a collection of public lectures by Australian and New Zealand Philosophers, comprises separate interviews with fourteen prominent Australasian philosophers. Many general readers will be unfamiliar with the interviewees, the exception being Peter Singer, whose international reputation transcends academic philosophy. However, the subjects, and indeed many other Australasian philosophers not included here, have made a significant contribution to the discipline at an international level. Indeed, a good number of Australasian philosophers, including some of those interviewed here, hold, or have held, chairs at some of the top universities in the world. Although it is not widely appreciated in Australia and New Zealand, the antipodean philosophical community punches above its weight internationally. This is something both to reflect on and to celebrate.

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New Zealand coins often sneak into Australian purses. Both currencies bear the queen’s, and some coins have common colonial symbols on the front (Cook’s Endeavour on the Kiwi fifty cent, for example), but these coins only work by stealth. They have value if they can pass as Australian. Recognised for what they are – foreign objects – their currency evaporates ...

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Nicholas Thomas’s principal purposes in this study are to show, first, that the peoples of the Pacific were neither incurious about the world beyond their islands, nor lacking in the emotional or imaginative means to apprehend cultures different from their own. Even before the coming of European maritime discoverers, they were accustomed to undertaking lengthy voyages and sometimes migrations from one part of the great ocean to another, practices which they extended when contact with the Europeans gave them the means of doing so. And second, that as a consequence of their travelling and becoming acquainted with other cultures, they altered their outlooks and social and political practices to meet new challenges and take advantage of new opportunities. In justification of these purposes, Thomas stresses the need to get away from older, Eurocentric, historical and ethnographic perspectives; and to understand that the Islanders were people both able and willing to assert themselves and, to some extent at least, to determine their own destinies.

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 A friend describes the sensation as being in the movie set of your own life: everything is familiar, but not quite right. Auckland feels like an Australian city that has simply slipped a little, like the accent, to the east. There are hints of Hobart in the crisp sea and the misty sketched-in headlands. And of Sydney, in the over-abundance of harbour, the narrow streets of Ponsonby, which drop away towards the water, the houses filled with quiet light. Perhaps all Pacific cities look pretty much the same these days: here is the casino, the observation tower, the thirties picture palace turned into a Singapore-style mall, the narrow lane with outdoor tables under braziers; the same stands of Westpacs and McDonalds and Lush cosmetics stores. Perhaps what differentiates one city from another now is the sheer volume of traffic forced through its streets.

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For those who haven’t yet discovered the riches of New Zealand poetry, this anthology should provide an appetite-whetting introduction. Edited by one of New Zealand’s finest poets, the late Lauris Edmond (1924–2000), it bears the stamp of a thoughtful mind and a judiciously discriminating sensibility, evident in her own work as in her selection from that of others. For she has neither lost her nerve and opted out of inclusion nor claimed any undue space. Yet her own work is central to the nature of the volume. When I came to write this review, after reading steadily from page one to page 257 and closing the covers, I knew that there were certain phrases, images and poems that had struck root, were memorable for me, and were shaping my responsiveness to the volume. Interestingly enough, I didn’t always remember which poet was responsible – for the structure of this anthology (of which more later) is such that it is an anthology of poems first, and poets second.

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