Keri Hulme

Keri Hulme is much like some of her fictional characters: intellectual, real, slightly eccentric, and fish-obsessed.

Her works include the Booker Prize winning novel The Bone People; Te Kihau/The Windeater, a short story collection, and Strands, a collection of poems.

As the Adventure Divas crew trundled across New Zealand in Old Sheila (the Valiant), we pleaded — via fax, Keri’s preferred method — for permission to visit the elusive author at her digs on the South Island’s rugged west coast. We’d locked up the Prime Minister, the country’s biggest pop singer, and foremost filmmaker, but could we hook Keri Hulme?

Keri, with her twisted brilliance and award-winning fiction, was the reason Holly chose New Zealand over other more politically interesting locales. The Bone People has a following of zealots — and we’re among them. To her credit, Keri kept faxing back, reporting on the fish in the local lagoon and recommending other divas for us to meet along the way.

Finally, she agreed to meet Holly — but no cameras. Holly arrived in the tiny town of Okarito, whisky at the ready, to make our case. After an hour of sussing up — questioneering Holly about Maori politics, fishing, literature and myriad other topics — Keri agreed to admit the camera crew. The following excerpts are from our visit to Keri Hulme’s home by the sea, built with her two hands.

Keri has a mythology around her — the net result of genius and eccentrism — and we think she likes it that way. Truth is, she’s warm and welcoming. It’s just that the profile keeps the rabid fans at bay — and the local waters from getting fished out.

From the Interview

“There is a sort of a massive pessimistic streak, it’s basically experience I suspect, we know that bad things happen quite frequently in New Zealand, [so when] you get unexpected good, you look for the dark side of it, quite literally.”

“I think one of the contributing things to, as it were, a New Zealand art, whether it be theatre or filmmaking or sculpture or painting or whatever, [is that] there’s the dual cultural base, between two interacting cultures… The other one contributing factor is just the archipelago itself. We’re a strange set of islands, and it doesn’t take long for people to be molded into being New Zealanders…”

“What becomes fascinating to me is once you get a character to certain level of normalness to yourself, they start to appear in your dreams, and they can then do or say things, or act in certain ways, not as you expect and not as you plan.”

“Writing isn’t my life…it’s a part of my life, it’s a lovely part of my life, I enjoy it very much and it’s how I am living, but it’s not my life. My life is family, friends, fishing, food…things like reading and painting and all the rest of it, and you can’t really prioritize when you’re involved with family or you’re involved in fishing, you can’t say, ‘Oh, I really should be writing.’”

Keri Hulme

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Okarito, NZ

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