Home visit

This afternoon, at the invitation of Her Excellency Caroline Bilkey, the New Zealand Ambassador to France, we visited the New Zealand Embassy in Paris. It was a real pleasure to meet members of the embassy team. We talked about Katherine Mansfield’s time in Menton, Paris and Fontainebleau-Avon, and about our own explorations of these places since our arrival in Menton in September. The conversation made me reflect on the extraordinary richness of our experiences in France so far, and how this...

Fontainebleau

Katherine Mansfield died on 9 January 1923 at Fontainebleau, near Paris, from a lung hemorrhage brought on by the exertion of climbing the stairs in the old priory where she was staying. She’s buried in nearby Avon cemetery. For many years, her grave has been tended by M. Bernard Bosque, who leads the local branch of an association called Les Amis de KM.  I already knew of Bernard through Redmer Yska’s Katherine Mansfield’s Europe: Station to station, recently published by Otago University Press. Redmer calls him...

Happy Birthday KM

It’s Katherine Mansfield’s birthday – the 135th turn of the sun since her birth in Wellington on 14 October 1888. On this date in 1922 KM  was in Paris, where for some months she’d been entrusting her health to a doctor who was offering a ‘revolutionary’ treatment for tuberculosis. The treatment involved repeated irradiation of the spleen and, despite clear signs to the contrary, Dr Manoukhin was optimistic that he would cure Mansfield by Christmas. Mansfield really wanted to believe...

Sainte-Agnès

‘Make sure you get up to Sainte-Agnès’, Owen Marshall told me. He lived in Menton as the Katherine Mansfield Fellow in 1996, writing the manuscript of his novel Harlequin Rex. Today we took his advice, and it was very good advice indeed. We caught a bus to this hilltop medieval village, one of several so-called perched villages in the area behind Menton.  At 800 metres above sea level, Sainte-Agnès is the highest coastal village in France. As the crow flies it’s less than five...

The Garden Party

And after all the weather was ideal. They could not have had a more perfect day for a garden-party if they had ordered it. Katherine Mansfield, ‘The Garden Party’ (1922). ‘The Garden Party‘ is one of Katherine Mansfield’s best known stories, so it was apt to receive an invitation to a garden party last weekend to honour Katherine Mansfield in the centenary year of her death and to mark fifty years of New Zealand’s Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellowship. The event was...

Key Ceremony

On Friday morning, 15 September, the formal Key Ceremony for the Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellowship  took place in the Salle des Marriages at the Menton Town Hall. This room is famous for its murals, which cover the walls and the ceiling and were painted by poet and artist Jean Cocteau in 1957-58. For this project, Cocteau drew inspiration from African and Ancient Greek mythologies and symbolism to design a narrative tableau that runs the gamut of human passions, emotions and behaviour. Love, desire,...

In the Novelists’ Garden

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...

Menton: Villa Isola Bella

On 13 September 1920, Katherine Mansfield and Ida Baker arrived from London to take up residency in the Villa Isola Bella in Garavan, Menton. KM was enchanted by the town, the climate, the people and the house. The view, she wrote to her husband John Middleton Murry the next day, ‘is surpassingly beautiful. Late last night on the balcony I stood listening to the tiny cicadas and to the frogs and to someone playing a little chain of notes on...

The Waters of Leith

Edinburgh’s Water of Leith flows through the city on its course from the Pentland Hills to the Firth of Forth. We walked along its banks today, enjoying the dappled shade and the sound of birds and water. There were many moments when we could have sworn we were in Woodhaugh, Dunedin, walking along the banks of the southern city’s Water of Leith. Dunedin’s Water of Leith originates high above the city and finds its way to the harbour basin by...

A Tale of Two Book Cities

George Street, Princes Street, Leith Street, Hanover Street, Canongate. Waverly, Leith Valley, Corstorphine, Carlton Hill, Mussleburgh and Portobello. Names, to steal a line from Lauris Edmond, that ‘sing softly across the water’. And what a long stretch of water it is, between Edinburgh in Scotland and its wee sister city Dunedin in the south of the south. I glimpsed the sea from cobbled High Street, and thought of the sailing barque Philip Laing setting off from nearby Greenock in November...