Sunday, December 19, 2010

The last novel to be translated

WH Allen UK; Pegasus NZ (1968)

The Rainbirds (also known as Yellow Flowers in the Antipodean Room) is regarded as one of Janet Frame's lesser novels. It is the only one of the twelve Janet Frame novels published so far to have remained untranslated.

Until now, that is. I was delighted recently to confirm a deal with a Romanian publisher. It's a first translation for The Rainbirds and this will also be the first Romanian edition of Janet Frame's work.

In 2006 Elizabeth Smither reviewed the newly reissued double edition containing State of Siege and The Rainbirds (New Zealand Listener November 11-17 (2006):

"Magnificent Shadows: Rediscovering Janet Frame: her lyricism, her brilliant images, her unflinching and loving view of New Zealand"

Vintage, Random House NZ (2006)

"...the Frame of the three-volume autobiography is the icing on the cake and underneath lies the great and accurate, clear, unflinching but loving view of New Zealand."

The Rainbirds was published in hardback by Pegasus New Zealand and WH Allen (UK) in 1968, and in the USA it was released by George Braziller (with the title Yellow Flowers in the Antipodean Room): in hardback in 1969, and in paperback in 1994.

George Braziller USA (1969;1994)

The Rainbirds has attracted some scholarly attention, for instance:
(Jan Cronin, 2005).

Gina Mercer, in her monograph Janet Frame: Subversive Fictions (1994) said of The Rainbirds:

"Frame set about creating a witty and scathing portrait of Dunedin's culture in the 1960s. It is sharp and dark and humorously unkind, as it depicts the dearth of spiritual and emotional resonance in the suburban populace, along with their catatonic denial of death." (p.124)

The Rainbirds is one of my personal favourites of Janet's works. She exposes the dark heart of human nature and the vicious "tall poppy" streak of New Zealanders, in a very funny way; it's not surprising that some early reviewers felt "got at" - such as Patrick Evans, whose excoriating criticism of the novel was ridiculed 20 years later in the Gina Mercer volume for having "missed the point".

I think The Rainbirds has an excellent plot and have always imagined it would make a superb movie.

I was interviewed by journalist Tess Brosnan for Dunedin's Channel 9 on Friday, and told her about this latest translation deal.

In the clip I talk about the wonderful descriptions in The Rainbirds, of the weather and landscape of Dunedin and its Otago Peninsula.

I don't mention the stringent social satire that probably didn't endear the novel to Dunedin readers in the 1960s!

No comments: