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Introduction by Simon Van Booy
In the Memorial Room is a brilliant black comedy, by the celebrated author of An Angel at My Table.
Harry Gill, a moderately successful writer of historical fiction, has been awarded the annual Watercress-Armstrong Fellowship—a ‘living memorial’ to the poet Margaret Rose Hurndell. He arrives in the French Riviera town of Menton, where Hurndell once lived and worked, to write. But the Memorial Room is not suitable—it has no electricity or water. Hurndell never wrote here, though it is expected of Harry.
Janet Frame’s previously unpublished novel draws on her own experiences in Menton, in the south of France as a Katherine Mansfield Fellow. It is a wonderful social satire, a send-up of the cult of the dead author, and—in the best tradition of Frame—a fascinating exploration of the complexity and the beauty of language.
‘In the Memorial Room is filled with terrifyingly beautiful reflections on how writing books (and even reading them) can feel like digging your own grave. It also serves as a sly warning to those of us who obsessively cherish the works of dead writers—even writers as good as Janet Frame. Watch out! The death you memorialize may well be your own.’
‘Frame’s sentences are marvels, winding like narrow alleys through hill towns: They open spectacular vistas. Brilliant.’
‘Delightful, funny and profound.’
‘Not just a brilliant novel but a considered and poignant posthumous literary act, a curtain call by one of the world’s greatest authors…A deeply funny book.’
‘[In the Memorial Room] is a formidable work. It is also amusing, satirical, poetic and provocative - a real joy to read.’
‘Reading this is like finding an unwrapped gift long-hidden at the back of the wardrobe. The novel is quite unlike anything else Frame penned, yet she is recognisable in every pore of every sentence and of every word. Her love of language is infectious and so, too, is her sense of humour.’
‘A deliciously mischievous piece of fun, this is sharp social satire, ruthless in its mockery of literary pretension.’
‘The writing is exactly what we expect from Frame—gorgeous, delirious and shining with delight.’
‘The layers of meaning and reference, autobiographical elements, vivid and poetic language, characterisation and satire in Frame’s second posthumously published novel In the Memorial Room show again why she is one of New Zealand’s literary greats.’
‘A beautifully crafted artistic and philosophical creation that explores the nature of communication and exposes Frame’s love of language.’