Postcolonial Pacific Writing: Representations of the Body

By Michelle Keown | Go to book overview

8

The narcissistic body:

Alan Duff's Once Were Warriors

At first glance, the writing of Alan Duff, whose outspoken views on contemporary Māori affairs have repeatedly courted controversy, seems far removed from that of the other Māori writers discussed in this book. Through a psychoanalytic reading of Duff s début novel Once Were Warriors (1990), however, this chapter will demonstrate that although Duff has argued elsewhere that Māori must stop 'blaming' their socioeconomic problems on the Pākehā colonizing culture, the novel acknowledges that race-related social divisions precipitate and exacerbate problems of identification for those from minority cultures. This chapter analyses the way in which domestic dysfunction, violence and substance abuse are explored in the novel as symptoms of a wider cultural malaise within Māori society, demonstrating that as is the case with the other Māori texts discussed in this book, Duff s novel is also informed by an underlying 'wounding' and 'healing' paradigm.

Duff s Once Were Warriors made an immediate impact upon the New Zealand literary scene upon its release in 1990. The novel advanced a grim, uncompromising representation of Māori as a violent, debased and despairing socioeconomic underclass, enacting an angry refutation of the idealized representation of Māori-Pākehā race relations promulgated during the 1990 sesquicentennial celebrations of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. 1Once Were Warriors quickly became a bestseller, also inspiring Tamahori's 1994 film adaptation, and is the first in a trilogy which also includes What Becomes of the Broken Hearted? (1996)-also released as a film in 2001-and Jake's Long Shadow (2002). Other novels include One Night Out Stealing (1991), which depicts the exploits of two petty criminals; State Ward (1994b), which details the experiences of a 13-year-old boy incarcerated in a young offenders' institution; Both Sides of the Moon (1998b), a semi-autobiographical novel exploring the dysfunctional family life of a boy growing up in Rotorua; and Szabad (2001), set in 1950s' Budapest during the Hungarian revolution. No doubt boosted by the phenomenal international success of the film version of Once Were Warriors, Duff s first novel remains his best known and most successful.

Duff s provocative and controversial views on Māori affairs-widely

-170-

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Postcolonial Pacific Writing: Representations of the Body
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents ix
  • Figures xi
  • Acknowledgements xiii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Postcolonial Dystopias 16
  • 2 - 'Gauguin is Dead' 38
  • 3 - Purifying the Abject Body 61
  • 4 - Alistair Te Ariki Campbell 84
  • 5 - Remoulding the Body Politic 102
  • 6 - Disease, Colonialism and the National 'Body' 127
  • 7 - Language and the Corporeal 149
  • 8 - The Narcissistic Body: 170
  • Conclusion 191
  • Notes 199
  • Bibliography 213
  • Index 229
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