New Zealand-born writer Katherine Mansfield (14 October 1888 ~ 9 January 1923)
Katherine Mansfield's 127th birthday has most suitably been chosen for a charity auction and soiree being held in Wellington today to raise funds for one of several literary trusts and societies that operate to memorialise 'KM'.
The work that Mansfield published in her lifetime is long out of copyright so there is no literary estate that can save her from the zombies. Fortunately, the best of her writings live on, and she continues to inspire new generations of readers as does any great writer. She also has a growing academic industry based around her. In her case, the predictable provincial backlash is well and truly over.
I remember that when I was growing up one still heard some pretty derogatory things about KM from some of the grumpy old (and young) men of NZ Lit - an attitude rather reminiscent of the way many of the glitterati and twitterati now talk about Janet Frame.
Mix envy with sexism, simmer with resentment, and let it ferment in a small pond...
But that is history now in the case of KM. A long tradition in New Zealand (since 1970) is the annual bestowing of a Katherine Mansfield fellowship to a New Zealand writer of proven merit to spend some time in Menton on the South of France, where Mansfield had once lived.
It's an important honour and opportunity, and some of our most prominent authors have held the Fellowship, including of course Janet Frame, who in 1974 wrote In the Memorial Room, her hilarious satire on literary fellowships while on that very fellowship - proving the worth of the whole exercise.
Unfortunately the Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellowship is in need of some extra funds in order to keep going. This year there is a reduced stipend and tenure. However the marvellous Arts Foundation has stepped in as partner to the Winn-Manson Menton Trust to ensure that there is a substantial fund to ensure the future of the fellowship.
At the Janet Frame Literary Trust we were horrified to hear that the Katherine Mansfield Fellowship was under threat, and in the 2014 year we gave a donation to the Katherine Mansfield Fellowship Fund in lieu of making a Janet Frame Literary Trust Award.
We recommend this cause to all who are concerned to support New Zealand authors to have this chance to experience "the colour of distance" (Janet Frame).