In the Novelists’ Garden

13 September 2023

Katherine Mansfield  was remembered today in Menton with readings from her work in the beautiful setting of the Jardin Fortana Rosa, also called Le Jardin des Romanciers (the Novelists’ Garden).  These gardens were built in the Belle Epoch style by Spanish novelist Vicente Biasco Ibáñez who started the work in 1922, and who lived here until his death in 1928. We gathered in the shade of tall trees, and were treated to readings from KM’s stories ‘The Doll’s House’ and ‘The Young Girl’ and to extracts from her letters and journals, in English and in French.

As Ruth de la Touche, representing the Katherine Mansfield Society, reminded us, KM always read her stories aloud. The cadence of her prose and the precise placement of each particular word were crucially important in her writing process. Hearing her words read so eloquently in these gardens (KM loved gardens!) was a wonderful way to commemorate the month and day in 1920 when KM came to live in the Villa Isola Bella not far from here, and also to mark the centenary year of her death.

As well, the event (organised by Birgitt McDonagh Nordbrink of the British Association of Menton) acknowledged the 50 year milestone reached by the Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellowship. As the fiftieth New Zealand writer to receive this opportunity, and as a new arrival soaking up new impressions after a long journey, it seemed apt to read from a letter KM wrote to her husband the day after she arrived at the Isola Bella from London. The 2008 recipient Damien Wilkins, who rolled in from Naples yesterday, spoke warmly of his experience in Menton with his family fifteen years ago. 

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