Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Anniversary of The Bone People winning the Booker Prize

Tomorrow is an anniversary of Keri Hulme's Booker win (31 October 1985). 
There is a really wonderful excerpt from Gaylene Preston's documentary on Keri - beautiful discussions on writing, characters, plot, killing off characters, and the terrible question that adults ask of children: "What are you going to do when you grow up?"

The Bone People was originally published by The Spiral Collective and my copy of that edition is sitting on my bookshelf with other special books. I was once offered 100 pounds for it by an English second-hand book dealer and I see it presently on sale on Abe Books at US$250.00
Apart from its importance as a most significant piece of NZ writing, and of course the only NZ title to have ever won the Booker Prize, I feel a special connection to the work because I was one of three NZ publishers who were bidding to buy the rights in The Bone People from the Spiral Collective. I was MD/Publisher at Penguin Books NZ at the time and the others bidding were Brian Phillips, then heading Wm.Collins NZ, and the man who won out in the end, Bert Hingley, the publisher at Hodder & Stoughton NZ. As far as I can tell Hodder have kept the work in print ever since. Goodness knows how many copies it has sold, and Keri will not tell me, but it is in the millions.
I also recall Robert Holding, owner of The Polynesian Bookshop in Ponsonby Road, selling me  The Bone People on the day of its 1984 NZ publication. He said "this is the most important piece of fiction published in NZ in many years Graham and you have to have a copy". That was pretty much before anybody had even heard of the book. He proved to be right on the money. And that was a full year before it won The Booker as the rank outsider.
The Spiral Collective as I recall comprised three remarkable women, Elizabeth Ramsden, Marian Evans, and Miriama Evans
Elizabeth Ramsden later adopted the Maori version of Elizabeth, Irihapeti
A year or so after The Bone People was published Irihapeti, myself and Gisborne librarian Pene Walsh were the judges of the Wattie Book Awards. Sadly Irihapeti died in 2003.

1 comment:

Keri Hulme said...

Kia ora Brian - I'd forgotten about that anniversary (I date things from the book's launching, Wellington, February 17th, 1984...)
Hodders didnt keep tbp in print - it is still published by Picador(Penguin Putnam in the USA), but no longer freely available in NZ (except via Amazon.)

A very nice pocketbook version was produced by S. Fischer verlag in time for the Frankfrurt bookfair, and it was partnered by "Stonefish" (originally published by Huia here.)