Friday, June 28, 2013

The Romanian Rainbirds

Familia Rainbird by Janet Frame (Ibu Publishing, Romania)
Translated by Julia Kretsch
A parcel from Romania, carrying
* The first Romanian edition of a Janet Frame work
* The first foreign translation of The Rainbirds
The Rainbirds (also known as Yellow Flowers in the Antipodean Room) is one of my personal favourites of Janet Frame's 13 published novels. It is quite often overlooked and overshadowed by the various other masterpieces that Janet Frame produced. But like all her other work, it offers rich reward for the reader. Her writing with its lyrical descriptions of the physical environment and its satirical observation of the hypocrisy of mob social behaviour is particularly acute. The plot is especially brilliant, and the message of unfair ostracism and of the vagaries of history is as fresh today as it was in the 1960s. Maybe it is even more relevant now, as Frame was so often writing "before her time".
It was always my dream to see this novel as a movie and a few years ago the Janet Frame estate did get very close to signing a major film deal for this title but, alas, the parties couldn't quite reach an agreement, the main reason being that the rights were being sought without a director on board with the project, and I feel my responsibility to the integrity of Janet Frame's work is too great to entrust the 'moral rights' to her work without knowing who will have creative control of the project.
I remember discussing this with a prominent New Zealand novelist who was also negotiating a film deal at the same time. When I expressed concern that in selling film rights, one also has to yield "moral rights", she said breezily "Just take the money and run!"
As the lawyer who was advising me at the time counselled, a live author has the right to do what they want with their own work, and if they make a mistake, they have only themselves to blame. But the executor of a great writer has more of a responsibility to make a sometimes hard decision, because they are acting as a guardian for another person's work, and in a sense your standards have to be higher than if it is your own work. The executor is responsible to posterity and should not be swayed by immediate gratification.
But maybe one day the right director will magically materialise!
What a beautiful logo the Romanian publisher has!

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