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Janet Frame Biography

(1924–2004), The Lagoon, Faces in the Water, Owls Do Cry, The Edge of the Alphabet

New Zealand writer, born in Dunedin, educated at Otago University and Dunedin Teachers' Training College. Early stories were published in The Lagoon (1951, revised 1961). Faces in the Water (1961) drew creatively and with harrowing directness upon her many years of incarceration in institutions for the mentally ill. Frame left New Zealand in 1956, and lived for many years in England and the USA before returning to New Zealand. Her first novel, Owls Do Cry (1957), explored the borders of madness and ‘reality’ in a small-town New Zealand setting; The Edge of the Alphabet (1962) extended such concerns. Frame's writing has consistently pursued complex, indeed often by definition inexpressible, questions of human communication; later work includes Intensive Care (1970), Daughter Buffalo (1972), Living in the Maniototo (1979), and You Are now Entering the Human Heart (1983). Her three-volume autobiography, To the Is-Land (1983), Angel at My Table (1984), and The Envoy from Mirror City (1985), was widely acclaimed. In her largely New Zealand-set novel The Carpathians (1988), Frame again probes complex and profoundly disturbing issues of human identity, communication, and fulfilment in terms which also question the conventions and limits of the fictional form employed. Frame's poetry is collected in The Pocket Mirror (1967). Critical assessments are collected in Jeanne Delbaere's Bird, Hawk and Bogie: Essays on Janet Frame (1978), while two full-length studies of her work by Margaret Dalziel (1980) and Patrick Evans (1988) are complemented by a continuing international interest in her work, encouraged by the film An Angel at My Table (1990) which dramatizes her life.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Samuel Foote Biography to Furioso