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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol 35 no. 9. 9 May 1972

Literary Achievements

Literary Achievements

Rewi Alley's concentration on writing began in 1948 and has continued to the present day. His widespread interests include poetry, translations, documentary accounts (relating to China and nearby countries), and various smaller pieces.

His latest contribution is Poems for Aotearoa (1972) which he wrote while in New Zealand in 1971-72. This book is simply about places he visited while here and his reflections on 'imperialism'.

It had been assumed all along by the Western World that Rewi was a Communist, but although he was a strong supporter of the Chinese Government and its policies, it was only in 1960 that he joined the Communist Party. Surprisingly, he joined the New Zealand Communist Party while on a return visit here.

His achievements in the literary and social fields are more than significant. He was and is a practical worker. He was deeply involved in social work in China particularly in improving the conditions of workers and peasants. Such work gave him a great insight into the current Chinese scene and an appreciation of just what conditions were required for the worker. This was appreciated by Jawaharlal Nehru who sought to have Rewi work in India as he had done in China.

Rewi contributed in an original way to the development of the New China. The Chinese Industrial Co-operatives, which he initiated and organised provided the blue-print for the communes which now exist under the People's Government.

For many, however, Rewi Alley's greatest contribution has been his literary achievements. His poems are very personal, close, and deeply felt. He is second to none in the translation of Chinese literary works, especially Chinese T'ang Poets (notably Tu Fu 'and Po Chu-i). His documentary and diary accounts are all first-hand and although the standard varies (as with his poetry) these writings are generally good.

In particular, there is one book which he wrote after the death of one of his fellow workers — Fruition—The Story of George Alwyn Hogg — which provides a personal insight to Rewi Alley and his feelings about his comrades.

Rewi Alley has had a variety of tags and descriptions attached to him. He saw himself as "an ordinary New Zealand plug". Others have seen him as "unhesitatingly among my half dozen immortals" and such a description is not uncommon. Edgar Snow saw Rewi as "only medium height, but.....tremendous rugged arms and legs.....When he stood with those giant's legs spread apart in a characteristic attitude, he seemed somehow rooted to the earth.."