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Christina Stead

Christina Stead (17 July 190231 March 1983) was an Australian novelist and short-story writer acclaimed for her satirical wit and psychological penetration. Stead was a committed Marxist, but never a member of the Communist Party. Although her birth and death were both in Sydney, New South Wales, Stead lived many years abroad in England and the United States. She first departed Australia in 1928, and worked in a Parisian bank from 1930 to 1935. Stead also became involved with the writer, broker and Marxist political economist William J. Blake, with whom she travelled to Spain (leaving at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War) and to the USA. They married in 1952 after Blake was able to obtain a divorce from his previous wife. It was after his death from stomach cancer in 1968 that she returned to Australia. Indeed, Stead only returned to Australia after she was denied the Britannica-Australia prize on the grounds that she had "ceased to be an Australian."

Stead wrote fifteen novels and several volumes of short stories in her lifetime. She taught 'Workshop in the Novel' at New York University in 1943 and 1944, and also worked as a Hollywood scriptwriter in the 1940s, contributing to the Madame Curie biopic and the John Ford and John Wayne war movie, They Were Expendable. Her first novel, Seven Poor Men of Sydney (1934) dealt with the lives of radicals and dockworkers, but she was not a practitioner of social realism. Stead's best-known novel, with the ironic title The Man Who Loved Children, is largely based on her own childhood, and was first published in 1940. It was not until the poet Randall Jarrell wrote the introduction for a new American edition in 1965 that the novel began to receive a larger audience. Stead's Letty Fox: Her Luck, often regarded as an equally fine novel, was officially banned in Australia for several years because it was considered amoral and salacious.

Stead set her only British novel, Cotter's England partly in Gateshead (called Bridgehead in the novel). She was in Newcastle upon Tyne in the summer of 1949, accompanied by her friend Anne Dooley (née Kelly), a local woman, who was the model for Nellie Cotter, the extraordinary heroine of the book. Anne was no doubt responsible for Stead's reasonable attempt at conveying the local accent. Her letters indicate that she had taken on Tyneside speech and become deeply concerned with the people around her. The American title of the book is Dark Places of the Heart.

Works

Novels

  • Seven Poor Men of Sydney (1934)
  • The Beauties and Furies (1936)
  • House of all Nations (1938)
  • The Man Who Loved Children (1940)
  • For Love Alone (1945)
  • Modern Women in Love (1945) edited with William J. Blake
  • Letty Fox: Her Luck (1946)
  • A Little Tea. A Little Chat (1948)
  • The People with the Dogs (1952)
  • Dark Places of the Heart (1966)
  • Cotters’ England (1967)
  • Australian Writers and their work (1969)
  • The Little Hotel: A Novel (1973)
  • Miss Herbert: The Suburban Wife (1976)
  • I'm Dying Laughing: The Humourist (1986)
  • The Palace With Several Sides: A Sort of Love Story (1986)

Short stories

  • The Salzburg Tales (1934)
  • The Puzzleheaded Girl: Four Novellas (1965) (containing The Puzzleheaded Girl, The Dianas, The Rightangled Creek and Girl from the Beach)
  • A Christina Stead Reader (1978) edited by Jean B. Read
  • Ocean of Story: The Uncollected Stories of Christina Stead, edited by R. G. Geering (1985)

Letters

  • Web of Friendship: Selected letters, 1928-1973, edited by R.G. Geering (1992)
  • Talking Into the Typewriter: Selected letters, 1973-1983, edited by R.G. Geering (1992)
  • Dearest Munx: The Letters of Christina Stead and William J. Blake, edited by Margaret Harris (2006) ISBN 0-522-85173-8

Translations

Secondary sources

  • Rowley, Hazel Christina Stead: A Biography (1993) ISBN 085561384X
  • Peterson, Teresa The Enigmatic Christina Stead: A Provocative Re-Reading (2001) ISBN 0522849229 Review

External links

References

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