My first session of this morning, Friday, had me sitting in a hall of enthusiasts listening to Hamish Keith orchestrate a conversation with Ann Thwaite and Joanna Woods. Both have recently published books which share migration as a major theme.
I enjoyed it - as I think they did. Hamish K's doesn't exactly chair, as lead the conversation into common paths of interest. And, yes, by definition they have to interest him, with no side trails,unless of course he blazes them in advance.
That said, he did bring out the best of these two lovely writers, both of whom wear their considerable scholarship lightly. They talk, congratulate each other, and almost everything they say is about someone else's contribution, instead of their own.
Thwaite's family history, Passageways, tells the story of a family on two sides of the world from the mid-19th century, when all her great-grandparents arrived in New Zealand, until 1945 when the writer and her brother returned to London after their wartime evacuation as children. Her parents were the founder-publishers of New Zealand News in London.
Facing the Music
Joanna Woods' biography of migrant Charles Baeyertz, Facing the Music, is in part the story of New Zealand's first significant cultural publication, The Triad, which became an Australasian magazine based in Sydney. This trans Tasman collaboration, as both authors explore, was a commonplace. Indeed for many Mainlanders [South Islanders] a trip to Melbourne was easier than one to Auckland.
Both works share a common interest in bringing the late 19th and early 20th century, so often the neglected periods of New Zealand's past, back into focus,
The Jamie Bellich re-colonisation theory
More particularly, this shared interest in New Zealands metropolitan pre-British home farm days, made for a lively reconsideration of the Bellich re-colonisation theory of New Zealand history- of how in the late 19th century, the emerging farming hegemony usurped the cosmopolitan metropolitan centers as the locus of power and influence in the pursuit of profit by becoming the home farm to the UK
This thesis of the "marginalisation of the metropolitan" proved a fertile discursive centre for all three panelists. And in the process they offered an open invitation for others to go have a look, beginning with these two books.
I for one will be taking up the invitation