Frank Sargeson (21 March 1903 – 1 March 1982) was the pen name of Norris Frank Davey. He is considered one of New Zealand's foremost short story writers. Like Katherine Mansfield, Sargeson helped to put New Zealand literature on the world map.
Born in Hamilton, Sargeson has been credited with introducing New Zealand English into short stories. His technique was to write the story without mentioning the setting. He also used a semi-articulate style which means that the story was written from a naive point of view. Events are simply told but are not explained.
Although Sargeson became known for his literary depiction of the laconic and unsophisticated New Zealand male, his upbringing had in fact been comfortable albeit puritanical. Upon completing his training as a solicitor, he spent two years in the United Kingdom. Sometime in the 1930s, he began living year-round in his parents' holiday cottage at 14A Esmonde Road in Takapuna, a northern suburb of Auckland. He eventually inherited the property which became for several decades an important gathering place for Auckland's bohemia and literati.
When Janet Frame was released in 1955 from eight years of voluntary incarceration in New Zealand psychiatric hospitals, Sargeson invited her to stay in an ex-army hut on his property. He introduced her to other writers and affirmed her literary vocation and encouraged her to adopt good working habits. She lived in the shed for about a year, during which time she wrote her first novel, Owls Do Cry.
During the 1930s and 40s, Sargeson experienced considerable economic hardship, as his literary output earned him very little money. This experience left him permanently sympathetic to the Left. For example, he quietly advocated closer relations between New Zealand and Maoist China. He was also gay at a time when sodomy was illegal in New Zealand. In 1929, he was arrested on a morals charge in Wellington, but later acquitted. King (1995) believes that this trial explains why Sargeson adopted a pen name and never practiced the profession for which he had trained.
Sargeson died in Auckland.
Buddle Findlay Sargeson Fellowship
|2009||Steve Braunias||non-fiction author|
|2004||Karyn Hay||broadcaster / novelist|
|2000||Charlotte Grimshaw||short story writer|
- Biography and links, by the New Zealand Book Council.
- Takapuna Library. Contact the Library to make an appointment to visit the Sargeson's house in Takapuna.
- Lay, Graeme, ed., North Shore Literary Walks.
- Sargeson Fellowship for a writer-in-residence, sponsored by Buddle, Findlay
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