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Bones, Helen, The Expatriate Myth: New Zealand Writers and the colonial world (Otago: Otago University Press, 2018).

Many New Zealand writers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century travelled extensively or lived overseas for a time, and they often led very interesting lives. The received wisdom is that they were forced to leave these colonial backblocks in search of literary inspiration and publishing opportunities.

In The Expatriate Myth, Helen Bones presents a challenge to this conventional understanding, based on detailed historical and empirical research. Was it actually necessary for them to leave to find success? How prevalent was expatriatism among New Zealand writers? Did their experiences fit the usual tropes about expatriatism and exile? Were they fleeing an oppressive society lacking in literary opportunity?

In the field of literary studies, scholars are often consumed with questions about ‘national’ literature and ‘what it means to be a New Zealander’. And yet many of New Zealand’s writers living overseas operated in a transnational way, taking advantage of colonial networks in a way that belies any notion of a single national allegiance. Most who left New Zealand, even if they were away for a time, continued to write about and interact with their homeland, and in many cases came back.

In this fascinating and clear-sighted book, Helen Bones offers a fresh perspective on some hoary New Zealand literary chestnuts.


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Studies in Travel Writing (journal)
Centre for Travel Writing Studies (Nottingham Trent University)

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