LITERATURE – FICTION
The first writings provoked by European contact with New Zealand are concerned not with fiction but with facts. Cook, Marsden, Wakefield, and their successors published on their return to civilisation the many Voyages, Narratives, Journals, Letters, and Travels which gave the Old World its picture of the New. Doubtless imagination touched up these accounts, but there is nothing that can be called fiction until exploration had given way to settlement. It was not until 20 years after the Treaty of Waitangi that the first novel appeared in 1861.
From 1861 to 1920 New Zealand fiction falls into four main groups. Most writers were either recording pioneer experiences, or exploiting the possibilities of an exotic setting. In the years 1890–1910 a number busied themselves with preaching for various good causes; some few, from 1890 onwards, attempted to interpret New Zealand life. After 1920 the recording novel died out, while the preaching novel withered, except for an occasional item. The exploiting novel continued to flourish, offering popular entertainment in feminine romances or masculine action yarns. In the period 1930–60 more writers attempted to realise New Zealand experience truthfully and to interpret it. Nineteenth century fiction is of historical interest only; it is included, however, along with minor work in the present century, so that this survey may be reasonably complete.
The survey is limited to works which have some relevance to the New Zealand land or people. Expatriate New Zealanders who have made reputations overseas with work not so relevant are disregarded, as is the non-New Zealand work of local authors.