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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria University, Wellington N.Z. Vol. 22, No. 8. August 3, 1959


"If the good Lord lined up all the little souls of unborn novelists and said to them 'Where would you like to be born?'. . . New Zealand would get no votes at all." This was said by Ian Cross, New Zealand novelist and O.U. Burns Fellow 1959, at a recent well-attended meeting of the O.U. Literary Society.

"Despite all the optimism generated by a coincidence of publications last year, the stiuation is still rather gloomy. Such factors as the fellowship that I'm holding at present make it that much less gloomy I suppose, but consider this:

"Taking the latest edition of McCormick's Letters And Art In New Zealand as our guide—that is, accepting his judgment of whether a novelist is worth considering or not—we find that of the post-war novelists until 1957 not one has survived in New Zealand. Here is the list—Courage, Davin, Park, Wilson, De Mauny, Ballantyne, Frame. Not one living in this country.

"Of the 1958 crop, McCormick mentions three authors, all now living in New Zealand, but it's far too soon to tell what's going to happen to us.

"Of the pre-war novelists still living mentioned by McCormick, we find that Lee and Finlayson have stopped producing, leaving us Frank Sargeson, the single exception to prove the melancholy rule—that novelists worthy of the name haven't yet been able to survive in New Zealand.

"Compare the novelists with the poets, still taking McCormick as our guide, and we find that the 1946-47 period produced 23 poets he deemed worthy of notice. All New Zealanders living and writing in New Zealand are writing poetry.

"It would seem that the New Zealand novelist is not only a rare bird—he must either fly from our shores or die. It seems that the short story writer finds the going almost as difficult. Lately I've had a look at some of the short stories of 10 to 15 years ago; one sees obvious talent, but unfortunately it doesn't seem to have developed since. However, the survival rate of the New Zealand short story writer within New Zealand is much higher. He doesn't go into exile either; he only fades away.

"But think of it: 23 poets have come into being and survived from 1945-57 within New Zealand—and not one novelist.