Albert Wendt Biography
(1939– ), Sons for the Return Home, Flying Fox in a Freedom Tree
Western Samoan writer, born in Western Samoa, educated at Victoria University, Auckland. He returned to Auckland in 1987 as the first Professor of New Zealand Literature at Auckland University. His novel Sons for the Return Home (1973) was the first by a Western Samoan and, like all his work, explores the complexities of Pacific culture in the present day. Flying Fox in a Freedom Tree (1974) consisted of ‘modern fables’ set in Samoa. In the title poem of Inside Us the Dead: Poems 1961–1974 (1976) Wendt charted with a moving blend of wit and honesty his own mixed European/Pacific ancestry and heritage. Leaves of the Banyan Tree (1978) was a major novel of epic scope, and an important imaginative document in the accommodation of traditional and ‘Western’ influences, both religious and secular, in the Pacific. In Ola (1991) his heroine journeys with her father to the Holy Land where she attempts to come to terms with her situation as a partially dispossessed contemporary Samoan woman. The fast-paced Black Rainbow (1992) offers an Orwellian vision of New Zealand in the near future. The poetry collection Shaman of Visions appeared in 1984, and The Birth and Death of the Miracle Man and Other Stories in 1986; Wendt edited and introduced Lali (1980), an anthology of Pacific writing, and Nuana—Pacific Writings in English Since 1980 (1995). Always an articulate and passionate critic of those who subject the complex and diverse populations of the Pacific to the demeaning and constricting stereotypes of ‘South Pacific’ life, Wendt is sharply aware of the political, religious, and cultural inheritance he has gained through living, as he once put it, ‘in a stone castle in the South Seas’.