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About the book
  • Published: 23 September 2015
  • ISBN: 9780143573098
  • Imprint: Penguin
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 528
  • RRP: $54.99

The Penguin Book of New Zealand War Writing


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A rich interplay of different kinds of writing about different kinds of war, from early pre-colonial conflicts through to the World Wars, Korea and Afghanistan.

A rich interplay of different kinds of writing about different kinds of war, from early pre-colonial conflicts through to the World Wars, Korea and Afghanistan.

Warfare, both at home and abroad, has shaped the way New Zealand defines itself: through camaraderie and courage, patriotism and politics, identity and nationhood. Soldiers writing from the front, journalists on the ground, biographers examining the lives of key figures, poets, novelists and playwrights reflecting on the experience of combat — these have all helped to form the way we think about war and so the way we think about ourselves.

The Penguin Book of New Zealand War Writing features creative responses to conflict, such as a waiata written about an inter-tribal skirmish, short stories on the World Wars, extracts from plays and novels set in such campaigns as Chunuk Bair and Vietnam, and works by various poets, including James K. Baxter, Eileen Duggan, Denis Glover, Allen Curnow and Robert Sullivan. There are vivid accounts by journalists reporting home as well as by soldiers recalling their experiences in the trenches, the desert or in the air. Rounding out this fascinating collection are thoughtful retrospective commentaries on the impact of wars from precolonial times up to Afghanistan.

  • Pub date: 23 September 2015
  • ISBN: 9780143573098
  • Imprint: Penguin
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 528
  • RRP: $54.99

About the Authors

Harry Ricketts

Harry Ricketts is a poet, writer and critic. After studying English at Oxford he lectured in Hong Kong and Leicester and now teaches literature and creative writing at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. In addition to his collections of poetry, essays - and brilliant studies of cricket - his critical books include the acclaimed biography The Unforgiving Minute: A Life of Rudyard Kipling.

Gavin McLean

Gavin McLean is a historian with the History Group of the Ministry for Culture and Heritage in Wellington. He has published widely on everything from shipping histories to the story of the New Zealand governor-generalship. This is his third literary anthology, the others being Whare Korero: Best of Reed Writing (2007) and The Penguin Book of New Zealanders at War (2009, co-edited with Ian McGibbon and Kynan Gentry). His most recent book is The White Ships: New Zealand's First World War Hospital Ships.


Praise for The Penguin Book of New Zealand War Writing

“'The Penguin Book of New Zealand War Writing is a massive, kaleidoscopic anthology, put together with an enjoyably light touch. The historical sweep extends from Murderers Bay in pre-colonial Aotearoa to present-day Basra, taking in well-known sites of battle and commemoration (Gallipoli, Northern France) and also wars that divided Kiwis, in Vietnam, Korea and Iraq.' - Metro”

PRH, PRH

“'I read this 500 page volume from cover to cover, skippingnothing, and that is rare praise for any anthology.' - Martin Edmond, NZ Books”

PRH, PRH

“'a volume that no-one with an interest in wars in which this country has become ensnared should miss reading. The book is a vast treasure trove of material that will surely encourage many readers — after dipping into more than 500 pages of writing devoted to New Zealanders' wars — to go further afield for information at its source.' — Otago Daily Times”

PRH, PRH

“'This handsome and comprehensive compilation certainly reinforces co-editor Harry Ricketts's opening observation that a case could be made for seeing war as New Zealand's most popular social activity. For a small country at the bottom of the world, New Zealand has managed to keep itself remarkably busy on the war front, even when we've had to travel thousands of kilometres to find one. So not surprisingly, all this activity has been well reflected in literature, both fictionally and in factual accounts.' — Sunday Star-Times”

PRH, PRH


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