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The Spike Victoria University College Review 1944



page 7

Dear Scylla,

If Spike 1944 is not to show itself wickedly contemptuous of tradition and neglectful of its stern duties it had better contain an editorial and the editorial had better be about the influence of the War on Victoria College.

I admit that I find very few interesting possibilities in the subject. Not that the war has not influenced the College—of course it has. The Army call-ups have, for instance, and the man power regulations and the transport restrictions and the dearth of books and liquor. These have made the College very dull, but the War in its more catastrophic and tragic aspect has hardly touched most of us.

This is all too obvious and trivial and in any case the impersonal rectitude of the normal editorial is a tone very distasteful to me. It seems to be an occasion for the exercise of your notorious talent for fantasy. Whether the result will be to the taste of Spike's readers I do not know. Every sincerely written editorial is the fruit of its author's mania, but to be acceptable its mania should be of some recognized kind. Thus to satisfy any large section of its readers an editorial in a University publication should be written by a democrat, a socialist, a Christian, or a lover of culture. But one cannot always wish to satisfy and I should be very grateful to receive something from you as soon as possible.


Dear Charybdis,

If I had to write an editorial, I would probably proceed as follows (assuming Victoria College has not changed after 1943).

There is at the moment an invasion on in Europe, and the murder, fire and passion of this world arc there. If the murder and the fire and the great dreams are there they cannot be here.

And that is no paradox, for it is not only the men that are away here, it is also the capacity to desire, and to dream. Those great enthusiasms that live in a people are not expandable like gasses. They can be placed and shifted. They can be shifted from the country to the town, and they can be shifted from the town to the battlefront. When they are shifted to the battlefront they are not here. The ideals have moved. Because they are at the front it is less possible even for us left here, to have ideals. We grow duller, less noble. And that is no paradox.

Presented to you here is Victoria's 1944 backwash; let us call it that. Contributions from those who have left the College or already graduated from an undue proportion. And of what there is the flame burns low. There is maybe no flame, and there is certainly no flame if we compare the little smouldering here with the conflagration in the distance.

Presented to you here, however, are many pieces worth reading, informative, interesting, and some of solid merit. And it is better that this collection should be published, that for Lhe writers left here the coma should not be too smothering, and that for the readers left here the void should not be too haunting.

There is not a total void, at any rate; there is still thought and feeling, there is still sincerity here.

page 8

And in other countries, in England for instance, there are remarkable new movements in literature in the offing. Unfortunately, these movements are not such as are bred in Universities. Their principal traits are generosity, adventure and magic, and their origin is the most primitive urges.

Even some of this has perhaps precipitated in Spike 1944. It is for the reader to judge. It is that, at any rate, he should search for, no battle cries and no politics.


Dear Scylla,

There isn't much murder, fire or passion at Victoria College in 1944; there wasn't much in 1939. Do you really believe there is much among V.U.C. students overseas? We neither of us know, but as far as I can gather there is murder and fire only in an uninterestingly literal sense. And passion? Sex is after all the most fruitful field for the passions, and while the sex life of the soldier is often violent it is also likely to be ephemeral and, from what one hears, rather dispassionate. The civilian still has his women. What else does he need?

Death? Here the soldier is at an obvious advantage. Two points should be remembered however. First, that many—perhaps the majority—of servicemen have not gone into action against the enemy. They have known only the dreariness of training and waiting. Secondly, killing and nearly getting killed one self stimulates people only for a while—after that it seems to depress them.

Many of our most lurid lights are on other shores—not, perhaps, completely eclipsed but scarcely burning more brightly. There is another reason for the less exciting tone of University publications and speeches. The avant-garde of thought at this College at the end of the thirties was almost entirely under some degree of Communist influence. And now the reversal of the Communist Party's policy has caused its influence to become respectable and therefore dull.

You say' There is maybe no flame and there is certainly no flame if we compare the little smouldering here with the conflagration in the distance.' That is' The flame of the candle before the church altar is no flame at all if we compare it with the flames of the municipal incinerator.'

Send me a short note to finish off this little game.


Dear Charybdis,

The answer to your last letter should not be a short note as you request, but a bible. First of all murder and fire are not considered by you to be essential elements of New Zealand culture because the students of V.U.C. do not think of them. You would be all right, if these students had other pressing intellectual problems, because then you could say' Look, it is not murder and fire,—it is public oratory,' or' it is Communism,' that has their fancy.

But you can't say that, and whatever is in the mind of the present generation of New Zealand students has not yet been expressed. One can only make a more or less correct estimate of potentialities, based upon the more obvious sources of student thought and upon the attitude towards life one observes amongst students. One can only ask:' What would these people write about if they wrote?'

It is doubtful whether one can even do that. The only way of forecasting the culture of the future is really to create it. But in my projected editorial, guesswork and nothing else has been my purpose and I will boldly persevere, right or wrong.

'We wore out our passports quicker than our shoes,' and' We used to make love offhand' are two lines from a poem on this generation by the German refugee poet, Bert Brecht. Love indeed was a thing one met the day before the train left, the week before the military unit was transferred.

page 9

Dreams became things met during only a moment,' May I introduce you to a dream,' said fate, and a minute later a policeman came to move you on. Admirations were no longer centred on one per son; symbols were no longer derived from one mythology. Life became a cinema of impressions! art of images.

If to our generation in New Zealand, as elsewhere, love is casual, there is murder and fire behind the stage. Fibs among young girls especially about a picturesque sex-life, are at an all-time they are yearning for the perfect performance. Young girls struggle to suppress their humanity for a constant pattern, to dance their faultlessly-proportioned ballet smoothly and gracefully, so that they may be best adapted to their calling.

There are two conflicting lines of thought about women. Some people say that they are becoming emancipated and others contend with Nietzsche, that their task is' only' the recreation of the warrior, the warrior' meaning 'man.' The first point of view is democratic and the second one is considered to be unutterably wicked. Yet: when have women been so completely the recreation of the warrior as in this period? They have sacrificed their humanity and the tenderness of their souls to be that passing dancing-figure the hunted' warrior' of today requires for his short pastime.

And the students of Victoria College? They too, in as far as they are women, suppress their humanity in order to be desirable. They fight against their tenderness and against their cruelty. They know that tenderness is not what men are looking for and that for cruelty they would not have time. Behind this is the murder and fire of to-day's battlefields.

The murder and fire of to-day's battlefields stand just as much behind a hundred other manifestations of modern life. I have no space to mention them. But what would these women write if they became articulate? Or what would any of those write who are left behind? Their work would reflect the great change: how the domesticated minions they knew have absorbed the elemental miseries and the fury of adventure in their bodies and become generous casual companions. In fact some quite talented poets in Australia have already done so.

A new, more impulsive life would glimmer through, as it also glimmers through even in news-papers, films and radio.

Furthermore, I do not agree that the proportion of soldiers who are in the actual battle, or the conscious thoughts of the inarticulate majority of them has any bearing on my little theory. As long as hundreds of millions of newspapers spread the story of the defence of Stalingrad, the invasion of

Europe, or the Wingate expedition, as long as there is an airforce fighting in this war,' passion' and death dominate the scene.

'Common sense' has been haunting you, dear Charybdis. You would like to explain the easiness of women by the dearth of men, and the degradation of Varsity by the fact that Communists have become respectable.'

Too much stupidity is taken for materialism these days. "More women than men—there you have a hard solid fact—what are you going to do about it,' you seem to say.

But in the realm of the spirit it is the difference in women's conceptions that matters. The fact of their numbers is just an accompanying detail.

The decline of spiritual pugnacity behind the battle-line, the slumber of the striving instinct was the tendency I wished to indicate in the' editorial.' The' solid' fact that the pugnacious element of V.U.C. (the Communists) have become respectable is just a corroborating detail.

So I hold my thesis that the battlefield has influenced Victoria College, both from the written sources, papers and magazines, as from the unwritten force that seems to open our spirits for the reception of a sense of space, which was unknown to most of the pre-war grocer world.