This study centres on the fiction of the New Zealand writer Yvonne du Fresne, the descendant of Danish and Danish-Huguenot families who emigrated to New Zealand in the late-nineteenth century and settled in the Manawatu area. It explores how memories of the past haunt generations of immigrants, and how issues of language, politics, and social norms live on through generations, affecting the formation of new identities and homes. Is it only, as with Astrid in Motherland, that by returning to our roots we can finally feel that we are at home in more than one country?
As Lauris Edmond writes, du Fresne's work is a tapestry of the past and present, storying immigrant life. Flitting in and out of the past is shown to be one way of coming to terms with the present and of understanding the importance of home, as is evident in The Book of Ester and Frederique, both centering on the manifold, complex European cultural traditions that were often overlooked in settler countries. Another is to be an inquisitive spy on the land like the child narrator, Astrid Westergaard, in du Fresne's magnificent stories, many of them originally radio broadcasts, which depict life in a small Danish community in the Manawatu in the 1930s, often in a humorous and ironic manner.
Through her portrayal of fictional Scandinavian immigrants, du Fresne throws light on a relatively neglected area in New Zealand studies. Reading her writing against its reception shows how it raises issues of cultural colonization, stereotyping, and difference; the consequences of migration and exile taken up are, however, equally relevant in our global society of today, and expressive of transculturation in the globalized present.
- Publication Date:
- 01 / 01 / 2010
- 155 x 235mm