The Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century Fiction - Vol. 3

By John Clement Ball | Go to book overview

W

Wendt, Albert
PAUL SHARRAD

Albert Wendt is the leading anglophone writer from the South Pacific, not merely for being the first Islander to publish a novel (Sons for the Return Home, 1973), but also for his prolific output of stories, novels, poems, drama, and artwork. Wendt is also important for his essays (notably “Towards a New Oceania,” 1976b) and his support for young writers. Concurrent with the Pacific-wide movement toward political independence from the 1960s on, Wendt’s output has engaged with broad postcolonial themes (Frantz Fanon’s problematic of the “native intellectual,” V. S. Naipaul’s traumatized mimicry, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s satire of corrupted nationalism). Critics have noted his mix of activist anger with existentialist despair, leavened with poetic symbol. His work has been translated into several languages, adapted into two feature films (Sons for the Return Home and Flying Fox in a Freedom Tree), and he is now the subject of a documentary film, The New Oceania: Albert Wendt, Writer (2005). He has been awarded numerous prizes, an honorary doctorate, and is a Companion of the Order of New Zealand.

Alipati Tuaopepe Wendt was born on October 27, 1939 in Western Samoa, then administered by New Zealand. His family was Samoan, with Europeans married in (a heritage rehearsed in the poem “Inside Us the Dead”). Albert learned from his grandmother, Mele, the oral fagogo style that mixed traditional tales with fables from around the world. When he went on scholarship to New Zealand in 1953 he began writing verse and discovered Albert Camus, who expressed the alienation of someone distanced from his heritage and from white culture. Wendt progressed to teachers college and obtained an MA in history at the Victoria University of Wellington. In 1965 he returned to Samoa to teach at and then head Samoa College, and in 1974 he moved to Fiji to the University of the South Pacific. He helped establish the seminal journal Mana, taught postcolonial literatures, and encouraged young writers. From 1977 he headed the Samoan campus of USP and then became professor of Pacific studies at Auckland University in 1988. Most recently he has occupied the Citizens’ Chair in English at the University of Hawaii.

Although he self-identifies as a poet, Wendt is mostly known for fiction. Sons for the Return Home (1973) created a small scandal when it appeared, exposing the racist attitudes beneath polite “Kiwi” society via an interracial love affair and excoriating the self-interested social climbing and moral stuffiness of Islander society. Betrayed by both white and brown communities, the protagonist rejects his family for a void of solitary “honesty,” like subsequent isolated prophet/ artist figures, memorably evoked in the novella Pouliuli (1977) and poems in The Shaman of Visions (1984).

This figure is developed in the epic Leaves of the Banyan Tree (1979). Pepe is a teenage rebel who succumbs to tuberculosis and writes his life from hospital. He is trained in traditional lore by his grandfather but watches his father cheat, bully, and bribe his way to capitalist power using rank

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The Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century Fiction - Vol. 3
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Editors i
  • The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Literature WWW.Literatureencyclopedia.Com ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Entries vii
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Notes on Contributors to Volume III xv
  • Introduction to Volume III 937
  • A 942
  • B 980
  • C 995
  • D 1034
  • E 1052
  • F 1066
  • G 1094
  • H 1121
  • I 1145
  • J 1154
  • K 1167
  • L 1180
  • M 1198
  • N 1252
  • O 1270
  • P 1277
  • Q 1296
  • R 1300
  • S 1325
  • T 1365
  • U 1370
  • V 1373
  • W 1378
  • Z 1398
  • Index 1400
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