Janet Frame (1924 – 2004)

Shown: Lake Waihola, Otago.

“…There were many catch phrases endlessly repeated. Those in vogue at this time were, “Remember Belgium”, a sarcastic use of an official formula; “The first seven years are the worst”; “Remember the Hundred Years War”; “Oh my! I don’t want to die! I want to go home”, a tuneless song sung in the English manner – tunelessly.”

Bion, W R: The Long Week-End (1982)

“And there were the sad songs about hanging men and women and the wearing of the green and the mournful bagpipe melodies that spiralled and shirrgled and moaned up into the sky; and the war songs that Dad began to sing – Tipperary, Blightie, Mademoiselle from Armentieres – and the one which wrung our hearts with pity for him and the other soldiers, “Oh, my, I don’t want to die/ I want to go home”.

“…The wind was blowing from place to place past us, and I was there, in between, listening. I felt a burden of sadness and loneliness as if something had happened or begun and I knew about it. I don’t think I had yet thought of myself as a person looking out at the world; until then, I felt I was the world. In listening to the wind and its sad song, I knew I was listening to a sadness that had no relation to me, which belonged to the world.

I don’t attempt to search for the commonplace origins of such a feeling. When you bring home a shell treasure from the beach, you shake free the sand and the mesh of seaweed and the other crumbled pieces of shell and perhaps even the tiny dead black-eyed inhabitant. I may have polished this shell of memory with the application of time but only because it is constantly with me, not because I have varnished it for display.”

Janet Frame: the complete autobiography (1990)

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