Fiona Kidman

ANZL Fellow

Photo credit: Robert Cross

Anna Leclercq on Fiona Kidman:

On a leafy summer’s morning in a West Sussex village park, a group of girls sat in one half of a grassy circle and boys in the other.  The boys were pouring over a difficult crossword cut from a national newspaper.  Not much had been filled in. ‘Broad heavy knife used as implement or weapon,’ called out one of the boys. ‘Something, something “C” something, something, something “E”.’  No one answered. Suddenly, the word ‘machete’ spilled from my mouth. ‘What?’ ‘Machete!,’ I said again a little louder. The boy looked down at the crossword puzzle, wrote in the missing letters, then looked up at me with an angry and condescending expression. ‘How on earth did YOU know that?’ he demanded. The presumption of intellectual superiority by right of gender overwhelmed me.

Many years later and many countries later, as a mature student at University in Auckland reading English literature for a Masters degree, I came across a book titled A Breed of Women (published in 1979) by Fiona Kidman. At the time I was looking for a New Zealand writer to contrast and compare with a Latin American writer who was the subject for my thesis. After devouring this and a number of other Kidman books, including two autobiographies (At the End of Darwin Road: A Memoir, published in 2008, and 2009’s Beside the Dark Pool), the Latin American writer had slipped away and Kidman became my focus.

Many people have written about Dame Fiona Kidman and her complex and abundant body of work, and many awards have come her way.  She is a wonderful story teller; she is a social historian from a feminist point of view; she is versatile. She’s written plays, poetry, novels (two of my all-time favourites are The Captive Wife, published in 2005, and The Infinite Air, 2013), and short stories; she’s worked in radio, as a freelance journalist, and so much more. Her body of work is formidable, (she has published more than thirty books), and so is her bravery in exposing details of her own life in order to bring more weight to her arguments when tackling the taboo subjects of her epoch.

When Kidman began her literary career, she was not some trendy arty type on the margins of polite society. She was an ordinary young New Zealand woman living in a time when women were supposed to be sexually inactive, voiceless and placed second to men. Through her writing, Kidman, along with other women writers of her era, spoke for those young women who did not dare to speak for themselves, using language they understood, disproving the myths, exposing the inequality of their lives domestically, sexually, and in the business world. People were shocked by A Breed of Women, but Kidman remained resolute in her belief that she had something important to say.

 

Accolades

New Zealand Heritage Book Award (2016)

New Zealand Post Book Awards for Fiction [finalist] (2012)

Frank O’Connor International Short Story Prize [shortlisted] (2012)

Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement in Fiction (2011)

New Zealand Society of Authors (PEN NZ Centre) President of Honour (2008/2009)

Chevalier de l’Ordre des Artes et des Lettres [Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters] (2009)

Légion d’Honneur [French Legion of Honour] (2009)

Creative New Zealand Michael King Fellow (2008)

Meridian Energy Katherine Mansfield Fellow (2006)

Montana New Zealand Book Awards for Fiction (runner-up) (2006)

Montana New Zealand Book Awards Readers’ Choice Award (joint winner with Maurice Gee) (2006)

Montana New Zealand Book Awards AW Reed Lifetime Achievement (2001)

Dame Companion New Zealand Order of Merit for services to Literature (1998)

Arts Council Award for Achievement (1988)

New Zealand Book Award for Fiction (1988)

Officer Order of the British Empire for services to Literature (1988)

New Zealand Book Awards for The Book of Secrets (1987)

Mobil New Zealand/ Outlook Short Story Award (1985)

New Zealand Scholarship in Letters (1981)

Ngaio Marsh Award for Television Writing (1972)

 

Links

Fiona Kidman’s website

New Zealand Book Council profile page

New Zealand Society of Authors writer page

Penguin Books author page

NZ Herald article (Aug, 2016)

ANZL ‘The Interview’ with Kelly Ana Morey (Aug, 2016)

NZ Poetry Shelf interview (April, 2016)

Radio New Zealand interview with extract from All Day at the Movies (July, 2016)

NZ Herald review of The Infinite Air  (Nov, 2013)

Stuff.co.nz Dominion Post article (Oct, 2013)

NZ Listener interview (July, 2012)

Bibliography: Fiona Kidman

 

Poetry

This Change in the Light: A Collection of Poems (Penguin Random House, 2016)

Where the Left Hand Rests: A Collection of Poems (Godwit, 2010)

Wakeful Nights (Vintage, 1993)

Going to the Chathams: Poems 1977 – 1984 (Heinemann, 1985)

On the Tightrope (Pegasus, 1977)

Honey and Bitters (Pegasus, 1975)

 

Fiction

All Day at the Movies (Novel: 2016)

The Infinite Air (Novel: Penguin Random House, 2013)

The Trouble with Fire (Stories: Random House, 2010)

The Captive Wife (Novel: Vintage, 2004)

Songs from the Violet Café (Novel: Vintage, 2003)

A Needle in the Heart (Short stories: Vintage, 2002)

The Best of Fiona Kidman’s Short Stories (Short stories: Vintage, 1998)

The House Within (Linked stories: Vintage, 1997)

Ricochet Baby (Novel: Vintage, 1996)

The Foreign Woman (Short stories: Vintage, 1994)

True Stars (Novel: Century Hutchison, 1990)

Unsuitable Friends (Short stories: Century Hutchison, 1988)

The Books of Secrets (Novel: Heinemann, 1987)

In Clear Light (Novel: Norton, 1985)

Paddy’s Puzzle (Novel: Vintage, 1983)

Mrs Dixon & Friend (Short stories: Heinemann, 1982)

Mandarin Summer (Novel: Heinemann, 1981)

A Breed of Women (Novel: Harper & Row, 1979)

 

Creative Nonfiction

Beside the Dark Pool (Memoir: Vintage, 2009)

At the end of Darwin Road (Memoir: Vintage, 2008)

Palm Prints (Autobiographical essays: Vintage, 1994)

 

Anthology

Better than Fiction 2: True Adventures from 30 Great Fiction Writers (Lonely Planet, 2015)

Essential New Zealand Short Stories (ed. Bill Sewell: Random House, 2009)

A Good Handful: Great New Zealand Poems About Sex (Auckland UP, 2008)

Where’s Waari?: A History of the Maori through the Short Story (Reed, 2000)

The Flamingo Anthology of New Zealand Short Stories (ed. Michael Morrissey: Flamingo, 2000)

The Cats Whiskers: New Zealand Writers on Cats (Vintage, 2005)

                                   

Editor

New Zealand Love Stories: An Oxford Anthology (Oxford UP, 1999)

Best New Zealand Fiction: 3 (Short stories: Vintage, 2006)

Best New Zealand Fiction: 2 (Short stories: Vintage, 2005)

Best New Zealand Fiction:1 (Short stories: Vintage, 2004)

 

'I have always felt in-between the traditional and the post-traditional, what many might describe as modern' - Billy Kahora

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