Displaced Persons

  • Lorna Sage


Christina Stead’s exorbitant imagination makes demands we have not yet come to terms with. Her idiom seems often as alien as it is impressive — a tribute to her originality and power as a writer, doubtless, but a back-handed one. It’s partly because her work was so neglected, so unassimilated, that she is hard, still, to take. With a less ambitious writer this would matter less, but in reading her now it’s an abiding irony. Her passionate crafsmanship should have been part of the diet post-war readers and writers grew up on. Major writers need re-readers, a chorus of commentary, argument and exegesis, if they are to occupy their proper space in the canon. Stead is difficult in more senses than one. She herself seems to have spent her last grouchy ten years or so (she died in 1983), back in her native Australia, covering her tracks, refusing to stand for any of the things hopeful interviewers and researchers wanted her to represent: feminism, literary experiment, the old Left…. ‘The “Reds” have done me a disservice by claiming me as one of their woolly sheep,’ she complained in 1973, ‘when in reality I am a goat.’1 Chris Williams’s pioneering biography (A Life of Letters) portrays a woman who was stubborn, unpredictable, and mean. As her long, wandering life curved back on itself — London (1928), Paris, the United States (1938–46), England again, then ‘home’ — she was consumed with scorn and loneliness.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


Christina Stead

  1. 1.
    Stead quoted in Chris Williams, Christina Stead: A Life of Letters, London: Virago, 1990, p. 308.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Stead quoted in R. G. Geering, Christina Stead, New York: Hall/Twayne World Authors, 1969, p. 44.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    Christina Stead, The Saltzburg Tales (1934), London: Virago, 1986, p. 98.Google Scholar
  4. 9.
    Lorna Tracey picks up the same imagery, though she makes a distinction between artists and others I’d argue Stead doesn’t: ‘This continual passage of individuals strained up from oceanic darkness, examined under high magnification and then returned to oblivion.... she soon pours every individual into a text the size of Sydney Harbour....’ ‘The Virtue of the Story: The Salzburg Tales’, Stand, Vol. 23, No. 4, 1982, pp. 48–53, pp. 52-3.Google Scholar
  5. 17.
    Christina Stead, For Love Alone (1944), London: Virago, 1978, pp. 192–193.Google Scholar
  6. 18.
    Ortega y Gasset, On Love: Aspects of a Single Theme, (Estudios Sobre el Amor) tr. Tony Talbot, London: Gollancz, 1959, p. 15.Google Scholar
  7. 20.
    Randall Jarrell, ‘An Unread Book’, reprinted in Christina Stead, The Man Who Loved Children, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1970, pp. 5–38, p. 36.Google Scholar
  8. 23.
    Terry Eagleton, ‘The end of English’, Textual Practice, Vol. 1, No. 1, 1987, pp. 1–9, p. 4.Google Scholar
  9. 24.
    Christina Stead, I’m Dying Laughing, edited and with a Preface by R. G. Geering, London: Virago, 1986, p. 122.Google Scholar

Jean Rhys

  1. 2.
    Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea, London: André Deutsch, 1966, introduction by Francis Wyndham, p. 10.Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    Jean Rhys, Smile Please: An Unfinished Autobiography, London: André Deutsch 1979, p. 21.Google Scholar
  3. 7.
    Ford Madox Ford, Preface to Jean Rhys, The Left Bank (1927), reprinted in Tigers are Better-Looking, New York: Popular Library, 1976, p. 160.Google Scholar
  4. 8.
    David Plante, Difficult Women. A Memoir of Three: Jean Rhys, Sonia Orwell, Germaine Greer, London: Gollancz, 1983, p. 25.Google Scholar
  5. 10.
    Jean Rhys, The Left Bank (1927), reprinted in Tigers are Better-Looking, New York: Popular Library, 1976, p. 233.Google Scholar
  6. 15.
    Jean Rhys, Smile Please, London: André Deutsch 1979, p. 161.Google Scholar

Elizabeth Smart

  1. 1.
    Elizabeth Smart, By Grand Central Station 1 Sat Down and Wept (1945), Londom: Polytantric Press, 1977, p. 7; p. 98.Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    Elizabeth Smart, The Assumption of the Rogues and Rascals, London: Granada, 1978, p. 108.Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar, The Madwoman in the Attic, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1979.Google Scholar

Tillie Olsen

  1. 1.
    Tillie Olsen, Silences, (1979), London: Virago, 1980, p. 19.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See the story ‘Yes, Yes’ in Tillie Olsen, Tell Me A Riddle (1962), London: Virago, 1980.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Tillie Olsen, Yonnondio (1974), London: Virago, pp. 190–1.Google Scholar

Françoise Sagan

  1. 1.
    Françoise Sagan, Réponses: The Autobiography of Françoise Sagan (Societé Nouvelle des Editions Pauvert, 1974), tr. David Macey, Black Sheep Books, Godalming: The Ram Publishing Company, 1979, p. 12.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Françoise Sagan, Bonjour Tristesse (Paris: René Julliard, 1954) tr. Irene Ash, Harmondsworth: Penguin 1958, pp. 46–7.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Françoise Sagan, A Certain Smile, (Un Certain Sourire, Paris: René Julliard 1956) tr. Irene Ash, Harmondsworth: Penguin 1960, p. 28.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    Françoise Sagan, Wonderful Clouds (Les Merveilleux Nuages, Paris: René Julliard 1961) tr. Anne Green, Harmondsworth: Penguin 1963. p. 60.Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    Shari Benstock, in Women of the Left Bank: Paris 1900–1940, Austin: University of Texas Press, 1986Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    Michel Foucault, ‘What is an Author?’, (1969), reprinted in Josué Harari ed., Textual Strategies (1979) London: Methuen, 1980, pp. 141–60, p. 141.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Lorna Sage 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lorna Sage

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations