Saturday, 27 March 2010

Small country, big talent

Image credit: Here

The question "Where are you from?" often causes me problems because it's not an easy answer of just one country. My identity is split between the land of my birth, England, and the country I feel is home, New Zealand. To make matters worse, I now live in Taiwan which is rapidly becoming 'home' also. By the by, the answer to the question is that I'm a British Kiwi - which sounds simple enough until people want to know how much British and how much Kiwi. But that's another story.

Image Credit: Here

The Kiwi part of me was stoked to recently read of two literary successes from our small part of the world. The first was that Mr. C.K. Stead has won the inaugural Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award in London. This is a new literary prize worth 25,000 pounds sterling building on previous success of the Times' short fiction pieces that appear weekly in the Sunday Times Magazine. Our Stead was up against some stiff competition - the complete long list includes some of our finest contemporary fiction writers:

  • Richard Beard - James Joyce, EFL Teacher
  • Nicholas Best - The Souvenir 
  • Sylvia Brownrigg - Jocasta 
  • John Burnside - Slut's Hair 
  • Will Cohu - Nothing But Grass 
  • Joe Dunthorne - Critical Responses To My Last Relationship 
  • Petina Gappah - An Elegy for Easterly 
  • Jackie Kay - Reality, Reality 
  • A.L. Kennedy - Saturday Teatime 
  • Adam Marek - Fewer Things 
  • Charles Mosley - Constraint 
  • Chris Paling - The Red Car 
  • Ron Rash - Burning Bright 
  • Simon Robson - Will There Be Lions?
  • Kay Sexton - Anubis and the Volcano 
  • Helen Simpson - Diary of an Interesting Year 
  • C.K. Stead - Last Season's Man 
  • Rose Tremain - The Jester of Astapovo 
  • Gerard Woodward - Legoland 
  • David Vann - It's Not Yours
Mind you, he's been around the block. Born in Auckland, New Zealand (my second hometown) in October 1932, CK Stead (CK stands for Christian Karlson has been writing since his twenties and has a long list of published work covering short stories, poems, fiction and literary fiction. If this local hero wasn't academically intimidating enough, he was a Professor of English Literature at the University of Auckland until he retired to write full-time. 

Image Credit: Here

The second Kiwi who has won international acclaim is kind of the opposite to CK Stead. She's female, young and the work that has gained her all the attention is her debut novel. Eleanor Catton's novel The Rehearsal has been causing a stir in literary circles for a good while now and this won't be the first big prize she has been up for. In fact, this stellar novel has been given the nod for the UK Society of Authors' Betty Trask Award, named best first book of fiction in the Montana New Zealand Book Awards as well as being long-listed for the Guardian First Book Award. Now it has been long listed for the Orange Prize. 2009's Booker winner Hilary Mantel is on the same list. I think "Phwoar" just about covers that! I've been wanting to read this novel for almost 2 years now (it was published in 2007) so I have finally taken action and ordered it from the university library. It will be showing up here as a review in a month or two, no doubt!

My heartiest congratulations to both of these Kiwi writers. You prove once again that although we might be a small country, we've sure got some big talent!


  1. I haven't heard of either of these authors. I'll have to check them out the next time I head to the library!

  2. Where are you from / Where is home causes problems for me too... I was born in Hong Kong, then moved to Melbourne, Australia as a teenager (spent about the same number of years in HK and Oz), then 6 years ago moved to the US...

    Just spent 3 weeks in HK (hadn't been back for 12 years) so slowly adjusting back!