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Entretien avec Vincent O’Sullivan

29 septembre 2007

par temporel

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On Friday 17th November 2006, in the context of Les Belles Etrangères, Professor Dunstan Ward invited Vincent O’Sullivan to speak of his work and read some of his poems. The following is a written transcription of the session [1], which was introduced by David Shepheard, Director of the University of London Institute in Paris. This written version of the talk has been revised for improved coherence and readability.

David Shepheard : I would like to welcome you all, and particularly to welcome our two guests, Professor Vincent O’Sullivan, from New Zealand, a University scholar but also, and that is the reason why he is here today, a poet, novelist and playwright who is going to talk about his work. The other guest is Anne Mounic from the University of Paris III, who is also, in her own line, a novelist, poet and critic. The reason for her being here tonight is that she has translated some of Vincent O’Sullivan’s poems and stories into French. This reading this afternoon is organised in the context of an annual event, les Belles Etrangères Nouvelle-Zélande 2006. A group of New Zealand writers, a delegation, are coming to Paris and the rest of France, promoting and making better known their work to the French public. This event is organised by the Centre national du Livre.
Now I would like to hand over to Professor Dunstan Ward, who is Professor of English here at the Institute, who will say a few more introductory things as a way of setting the scene for what you are about to hear from our two guests.

Dunstan Ward :
Thank you very much, David. Ladies and gentlemen, it is a great pleasure for me to introduce Vincent O’Sullivan, who is New Zealand’s most famous living writer. He is also, as you gathered from Dr Shepard’s introduction, an extraordinary versatile writer, poet, short story writer, novelist, playwright, biographer, as well as editor and critic. In all these different literary genres, and fields, Vincent O’Sullivan’s work is essentially that of a poet, and I think Anne Mounic would agree. Since his first collection of verse in 1965, he has published thirteen more volumes, two of them winning recently New Zealand’s Book Awards, a volume called Seeing You Asked (1998) and a very O’Sullivanist title, Nice Morning for It, Adam (2004). His latest collection, called Blame Vermeer is due out next year.
Vincent O’Sullivan’s fiction is informed by the themes and the preoccupations of his poetry, Yeats’s great trio of love, sex, and death, themes of betrayal and loss, the relation between art and reality, the visionary moment amidst the flux of time. It is a unifying view of life, and I know here again that Anne agrees, that is fundamentally religious in the wider sense. The latest of Vincent’s collections of short stories, Pictures by Goya, was published by Penguin earlier this year. He has published two novels ; his first full scale novel was Let the River Stand, in 1993, followed in 1998 by Believers to the Bright Coast. And he is now working on a new novel.
The dramatic element in Vincent O’Sullivan’s poetry, particularly memorable in Butcher and Co and The Butcher Papers, books that came out in 1977 and 1982, found its expression in the theatre with six plays that came out following Shuriken in 1983. These plays included Jones & Jones, which is about Katherine Mansfield and her friend Ida Baker, and has musical elements in it.
Vincent O’Sullivan is the leading authority on Katherine Mansfield, who is New Zealand’s most internationally celebrated writer. He is at present completing the sixth and final volume of his invaluable and monumental edition of Mansfield’s Collected Letters, published by Oxford, The Clarendon Press. Another New Zealand writer, the novelist John Mulgan was the subject of a biography by Vincent O’Sullivan, Long Journey to the Border, in 2003. He is now embarked on the life of a New Zealand artist, Ralph….. .

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Notes

[1On peut entendre, en cliquant sur l’onglet, la lecture des poèmes de Vincent O’Sullivan. Une demi-heure d’écoute.


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