Risk anything! Care no more for the opinion of others ... Do the hardest thing on earth for you. Act for yourself. Face the truth.
(Journal entry, 14 October 1922)
― Katherine Mansfield, Journal of Katherine Mansfield
Gert surprised me by taking me on a small pilgrimage to Fontainebleau, France ... to the grave of my most favourite New Zealand author, born 76 years before me. A much-loved author, a woman I might have modeled my life on if I had known of her when I was young.
She fled New Zealand before she was 20, striking out in a world that was bigger than her 1903 Wellington, New Zealand, world. She returned home then left again, forever, in 1908 and died in Avon, near Fontainebleu, in 1923 ...aged 34.
She knew so many writers, forming close friendships with D.H.Lawrence and Virginia Woolf, to name two.
Katherine’s friendship with Virginia Woolf was an extraordinary blend of intimacy, rivalry and mutual admiration. Artistically, they were intimates. Culturally they were hemispheres apart.
After Katherine’s death Virginia confided to her diary that Katherine's writing was: “the only writing I have ever been jealous of.”
And so it was. Katherine was bold. She wrote: I believe the greatest failing of all is to be frightened... in a letter to her husband, John Middleton Murry, 18 October 1920.
She revolutionised the 20th Century English short story. Her best work shakes itself free of plots and endings and gives the story, for the first time, the expansiveness of the interior life, the poetry of feeling, the blurred edges of personality. She is taught worldwide because of her historical importance but also because her prose offers lessons in entering ordinary lives that are still vivid and strong. And her fiction retains its relevance through its open-endedness—its ability to raise discomforting questions about identity, belonging and desire.
And so, we called by, visiting her grave today. Said our hellos and photographed that place where she stopped with her wandering, leaving her work to travel the world on her behalf, inspiring others oftentimes ...
But honestly, who wouldn't love her? That woman who wrote ... The pleasure of all reading is doubled when one lives with another who shares the same books.