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Christina Stead (Christina Ellen Stead) Biography

(1902–83), (Christina Ellen Stead), The Salzburg Tales, Decameron, Seven Poor Men of Sydney

Australian novelist and short-story writer, born in Rockdale, New South Wales, educated at Sydney Teachers' College. In 1928 she left Australia. She and William J. Blake, the American writer and Marxist economist, whom she later married, travelled a great deal, living in the USA, Britain, and Europe. Her first publication, The Salzburg Tales (1934), written while working in a Paris bank, and structured like the Decameron, were tales supposedly told by a group of international visitors to a music festival. Her first novel was Seven Poor Men of Sydney (1934), an evocation of her home environment and the social and political climate of that time. The Beauties and the Furies (1936) returned to Paris, as did The House of All Nations (1938). The Man Who Loved Children (1940), though set in America, is largely an account of the circumstances of Stead's childhood and her teenage struggle against a patriarchal parent. For Love Alone (1944) gives a closely autobiographical version of her determination to leave Australia, her arrival in England, her disappointment with the young man she had followed, and her subsequent meeting of her future husband. This was followed by Letty Fox: Her Luck (1946), A Little Tea, a Little Chat (1948), and The People with the Dogs (1952). After a period of silence, Stead published Cotter's England (1967; US title, The Dark Places of the Heart, 1966), set in England during the Cold War, which is a study of Nellie Cotter, a left-wing journalist, and the extent of her self-deception. I'm Dying Laughing (1986) was written largely in the 1940s and concerns McCarthyite Hollywood in the 1930s. Her other works include The Little Hotel (1973) and Miss Herbert (1976), both novels; The Puzzleheaded Girl (1967), a collection of four novellas; and the posthumous Ocean of Story (1985), short stories. The 1965 reprint of The Man Who Loved Children brought her belated recognition in Australia as the country's greatest female novelist.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Souvenirs to St Joan of the Stockyards (Die heilige Johanna der Schlachthöfe)