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Epistolary fiction

May 12, 2011

There is a certain, powerful je-ne-sais-quoi in letters from the battlefields of war…  Many families have them – and many have been donated to museums… they provide an amazing personal insight into the nation’s History.  I don’t know when they captured our communal attention, but they have held it for some time.  Every ANZAC Day, it seems, someone’s letters are referred to in the newspapers… we read snippets over and over that show the bravery, the comradery, the spirit, the ordinariness, and the silent struggle of these men and women…  

We read of their loves and losses; we read of their humble wishes (for Mum’s pie or some such thing), and we see the silences they chose to keep (whether out of an awareness for the censors or out of a desire to protect their loved ones at home from ‘the reality of war’).  Some of these letters are in publication… and many have been imitated in fictional writing (Ken Catran, for example).  Letter-writing is going through an interesting phase at the moment, I’m sure New Zealand Post would agree, but letters are alive and well in our memory of ‘the war’.

Generically, though, in terms of violent conflict, what does this persistent use of ‘the letter home’ do to our imaginings of war and of New Zealand?

(Refer, for an example of letters published: Love transcends the Barbed Wire, parts 1, 2, and 3)

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