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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 6 (September 2, 1935)

Our “Atmosphere.”

Our “Atmosphere.”

Some literary folk in our midst and out of it are periodically concerned about the future of our writers and their work. “New Zealand,” said one, “may never have a distinctive atmosphere so as to give a particular character to our literature, because actually we differ so little from England.” That is essentially a narrow and ill-informed view. No country can differ from England more greatly than New Zealand in its physical character and tradition. One town is very like another, and townspeople are as alike as Chinamen. But it is the romantic frontier character, the infinitely coloured, thrilling past of New Zealand compressed into say a little more than a century that gives it its background that competent writers can use to the advantage of their work. There are distinctive types of character in the backblocks and in such a land as the long woody West Coast that the town-dwelling critic does not know. The native-born reared on the frontiers of civilisation where wild history was made has a character and outlook differing vastly from that of the English immigrant of to-day who never strays far from the city lights. Our tradition is as distinctive as our landscape. There is nothing wrong with our atmosphere. But fiction-writers who have to hunt up “local colour” will never find the real thing. It is forever far beyond their skyline.

I have remarked on the tendency to standardisation of type in the farming business, due to excessive specialisation. But there are many, many places to which this does not apply. And there is our heroic tradition, the like of which no other country has known; it is sui generis.