Otago University Press, 2018
Many New Zealand writers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century travelled extensively or lived overseas for a time, and they often led very interesting lives. The received wisdom is that they were forced to leave these colonial backblocks in search of literary inspiration and publishing opportunities.
In The Expatriate Myth, Helen Bones presents a challenge to this conventional understanding, based on detailed historical and empirical research. Was it actually necessary for them to leave to find success? How prevalent was expatriatism among New Zealand writers? Did their experiences fit the usual tropes about expatriatism and exile? Were they fleeing an oppressive society lacking in literary opportunity?
In the field of literary studies, scholars are often consumed with questions about ‘national’ literature and ‘what it means to be a New Zealander’. And yet many of New Zealand's writers living overseas operated in a transnational way, taking advantage of colonial networks in a way that belies any notion of a single national allegiance. Most who left New Zealand, even if they were away for a time, continued to write about and interact with their homeland, and in many cases came back.
In this fascinating and clear-sighted book, Helen Bones offers a fresh perspective on some hoary New Zealand literary chestnuts.
Available in New Zealand bookstores, through Otago University Press, or via your favourite online store.
“A welcome and provocative revisionist account of much that our literary consciousness takes for granted.”
- North & South, May 2018
"… scrupulously researched, extensive in its scholarship, innovative and fearless.”
- Lucy Sussex, Landfall Online
"Bones’s clearly argued and factually supported picture of early New Zealand Pākehā writing culture as not so cut off from metropolitan publishing opportunities as expected, with expatriation not at all the default choice for the ambitious writer (and often accidental, as I myself know only too well), should be required reading for anyone wishing to get a sense of what it meant to be an aspiring New Zealand writer in this foundational period of the growth of the colonial and then independent nation.”
- David Callahan, Journal of New Zealand & Pacific Studies
“Scholarly books about New Zealand literature generally attract only New Zealand readers, but this book is arguably relevant to scholars of all New World countries. As the title suggests, Bones’ argument is a bold one, but it is also meticulously argued using an impressive array of statistics. Pithily summed up, Bones contends that expatriation was not as essential to the New Zealand literary imagination in the early years of the twentieth century as has commonly been portrayed, and it follows from this that the category of ‘expatriate’ may not be particularly useful for explaining or evaluating New Zealand writers’ experiences.”
- Anne Maxwell, Journal of New Zealand Studies
Listen to an interview with the author in this podcast by Jason Schulman of the New Books Network.