Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Broken Book by Fiona Farrell

I have been so moved by this book with its beautiful poetry and prose and the insight the author provides into the experiences of the residents of Christchurch over the past 12 months and also of course by way of contrast the great joy to be experienced on walking holidays........

Fiona Farrell, a special person And so much literary talent. I salute her.

To put it more formally she is of course is an award-winning novelist, playwright and poet. In 1995 she was the Katherine Mansfield Fellow in Menton and in 2006 she held the Rathcoola Residency in Ireland, where she wrote The Pop-Up Book of Invasions (Auckland University Press, 2007), shortlisted for the Montana New Zealand Book Awards. Fiona Farrell received the New Zealand Prime Minister’s Award for Fiction in 2007. Her most recent novels are Mr Allbones’ Ferrets (2007) and Limestone (2009), both nominated for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Farrell lives at Otanerito on Banks Peninsula, but spent 2011 in Dunedin as recipient of the Robert Burns Fellowship. She was in Christchurch on 4 September 2010 and at Dunsandel, driving south, on 22 February 2011.

The publishers, Auckland University Press, have kindly allowed me to reproduce some text and two poems from the book:

I was writing a book about walking. A travel book, meandering, following the random habit of thought associated with a walk through a landscape. It would ramble. It would detour to examine curiosities. It would link walking with books read along the way or the things learned in conversation with strangers. I didn’t have a shape for what I was doing. Normally I write to a more regular structure, but this time I was heading offroad, following my nose, seeing where it would take me. Then an earthquake shook me from bed and ripped up the map entirely. The quake sent a jagged tear right through my text. My mind was shaken.

The suitcase

When we leave, we take the city
with us. Her bandaged buildings
and her gappy streets lurching
like some old gal who has been
knocked about. Her broken teeth,
black eye. Her shops with their
empty shelves. Her sewers and
their secret, soggy shambles.

We run away from her. Cross
over to the safe side where the
centre holds. Pretty cities
where marigolds will live
for ever. We breathe the scent
of white sheets in a quiet hotel.
But when the suitcase opens,
it’s all there: bricks, the lost
dog, the old gal wheezing her
crazed song down a broken
alley. Something about dust
and ashes and how things
fall. We catch the whiff of
her among our folded socks.


Marge ran out in her
pyjamas. But that’s no
way to end: crumpled
in faded pastel,
barefoot, pinned to
the earth by the
clothesline’s scrawny

She climbs back into
the shaky dark, finds
her fluffy jersey, the
one everyone says
brings out the blue
in her eyes. Her fine
wool trousers.
Italian leather shoes.

And lipstick.

A dash of crimson.

Thick enough to leave
its mark on any saviour,
should one come
kissing her

in her tomb of
shattered glass.

This is a very special book which I warmly recommend to you. Lyricism of the highest order. And such a blend of emotion and intellect, she doesn't settle for the merely sentimental.
Auckland University Press - $34.99. Publication Friday 14 October.

1 comment:

Carole Beu said...

Dear Graham, I totally agree with you! Auckland University Press have sent me an advance copy of Fiona Farrell's Broken Book and I find myself hugging it my heart every time I finish a section. It is an extraordinary book, from one of NZ's most brilliant (and modest!) writers. It is that rare book that fills up your heart as you read it.
Carole beu, The Women's Bookshop