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Release: Brasch Journals

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Charles Brasch Journals 1945-1957 selected by Peter Simpson (Otago U Press, $59.95)

brasch_coverThis volume of Charles Brasch’s journals covers the years from late 1945 to the end of 1957, when the poet and editor was aged 36 to 48. It begins with his return to New Zealand after World War II to establish a literary quarterly to be published by the Caxton Press. The journals cover the first decade or so of his distinguished editorship of Landfall, a role that brought Brasch into contact with New Zealand’s leading artists and intelligentsia.

‘Although a discreet and reserved man in public, Brasch was often candid and direct in his comments about people he met,’ says editor Peter Simpson.

They included many of the best known people of his generation – including Frank Sargeson, A.R.D. Fairburn, Keith Sinclair, Eric McCormick, James Bertram, J.C. Beaglehole, Maria Dronke, Fred and Evelyn Page, Alistair Campbell, Bill Oliver, Toss and Edith Woollaston, Denis Glover, Allen Curnow, Leo Bensemann, Lawrence Baigent, Ngaio Marsh, Colin McCahon, James K. Baxter, Janet Frame, Ruth Dallas and many others – and are among the highlights of the book.

Unmarried and longing for intimacy, Brasch also writes with great candour about his relationships with Rose Archdall, Rodney Kennedy and Harry Scott, revealing a side of himself that has not been known about before.

Peter Simpson says, ‘Brasch was, before all else, a poet and his journals offer frequent insights into his own poetry and that of others.’ He writes movingly about his own work, and also about his love of nature and the outdoors, including lively descriptions of walking the Milford and Routeburn tracks. The book ends with his visit to Europe in 1957, which confirmed his sense that New Zealand had become for him ‘a centre & a world’.

The introduction by Peter Simpson, plus footnotes, detailed chronology, extensive biographical notes and other editorial apparatus guide the reader through this fascinating revelation of a man and his world, and a large and important chunk of our cultural history as a nation. The book also includes a number of photographs, many never before published.

About the editor

Peter Simpson is a writer, editor and curator who has taught at universities in New Zealand and Canada. He was director of the Holloway Press and a head of English at the University of Auckland, retiring in 2013. Peter has written and edited many books and essays on New Zealand art, literature and cultural history, including titles on Ronald Hugh Morrieson, Allen Curnow, Colin McCahon, Kendrick Smithyman and Leo Bensemann. Recent projects include Bloomsbury South: the arts in Christchurch 1933–53 (AUP, 2016), and Leo Bensemann & Friends: Portraiture & The Group (2016), an exhibition curated for the New Zealand Portrait Gallery. He lives in Auckland.