Monday, January 29, 2018

Janet Frame: still a source of inspiration

Greetings for the new year - all good wishes for 2018 to Janet Frame's fans who read this blog.

It is 14 years today since Janet died, on the 29th of January 2004, but there is still plenty to talk about (when I find the time). There are some exciting new editions of her work coming out in March and in May; there are some theatrical productions in preparation; more translations happening; there is a fresh new publication of Frame's poetry in a French language journal; she features in several new anthologies and a couple of kids' books; and more... and I'll be writing about those in due course.

For today I can't think of a better way to mark this anniversary of Janet's death than by sharing some work that has been inspired by her writings. Her work lives on and continues to inspire and enlighten and console and challenge. With kind permission, I reproduce here these images of a couple of paintings by Theodor Harmsen, who is a Dutch academic, a fan of Janet Frame's work. The two paintings are part of a series (inspired by Shakespeare's The Tempest) that is currently appearing in an exhibition in the Utrecht City Library in the Netherlands.

Theodor Harmsen says: "I am a teacher of English language and literature at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. I am an avid reader of Janet Frame’s work and have much enjoyed the posthumous publications that have come out in recent years. I am also a painter and have been working on a project inspired by The Tempest, that multifaceted Romance by William Shakespeare and an important inspiration, as you know, in Janet Frame’s early stories and novels."

Among other works of Janet Frame's, Mr Harmsen was inspired by this quote from Janet Frame's autobiography An Angel at My Table:
What could I do if I couldn’t write? Writing was to be my rescue. I felt as if my hands had been uncurled from their clinging-place on the rim of the lifeboat … I comforted myself by remembering that in my years in hospital, when I clung to my copy of Shakespeare, hiding it under my straw mattresses, having it seized and scheming for its return, not often reading it but turning the tissue-paper-thin pages which somehow conveyed the words to me, I had absorbed the spirit of The Tempest. Even Prospero in his book-lined cell had suffered shipwreck and selfwreck; his island was unreachable except through storm.
Here are the two works in which Theodor Harmsen pays homage to Janet Frame (oil on canvas, 120 cm x 200 cm):

Janet and the Owls
by Theodor Harmsen

How Many Goodly Creatures
by Theodor Harmsen
"The works try to approach the inner Tempest world, both Shakespeare’s and Janet Frame’s. I imagine, or dream, that Janet and the figures appear on Prospero’s island." - TH