Thursday, October 31, 2013

Private world of Charles Brasch revealed for the first time

Charles Brasch – poet, literary editor and arts patron – was a pre-eminent figure in New Zealand arts.  He founded Landfall, New Zealand’s leading literary journal, in 1947 and remained its editor for the next twenty years.

Charles Brasch Journals 1938–1945, spanning a crucially formative period in Brasch’s life, are the first ever to be published. Written in London during the Second World War, they give a vivid account of a restless young man ‘anxiously debating his future’. Is he a pacifist? Should he join the army? Is he homosexual? Are his poems any good?

Brasch was a deeply private man. His daily journal was a place where he could explore personal questions frankly. ‘As communication with other people was not easy for him, his intimate conversation was with his diary,’ says Margaret Scott, who transcribed Brasch’s journals.

On the question of his return to New Zealand Brasch writes: ‘I instinctively referred everything I saw to New Zealand, which is the alphabet of the world for me.’ Yet the thought of actually going back was ‘part vision, part nightmare’.

‘Some questions are resolved in the course of the journals,’ says Wendy Harrex, former OUP publisher, ‘others not, but it all makes compelling reading.’ 

Charles Brasch Journals 1938–1945 is an irresistible read not least for the parade of people that feature in its pages: from friends and family to conscientious objectors, civil servants working at Bletchley Park (as Brasch was to do), members of the Adelphi Players, fellow fire wardens, refugees from Europe, and artists and writers both English and Kiwi.

Brasch is ‘frank about himself as about everyone else’. This ‘lucid, honest, analytical diary’ gives a close-up view of the self-defining years of a young man whose quiet presence continues to radiate through the New Zealand literary and art scene.

Charles Brasch: Journals 1938–1945
Hardback, 245 x 170 mm, 648 pp
ISBN 978-1-877372-84-1, $60
Otago University Press

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