the Secret History of Modernism by C.k. Stead

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A chance meeting has New Zealand writer Laszlo Winter thinking back to his time in London in the late 1950s. The Empire might be in a state of collapse, but for young 'colonials', England remains a mythical place that draws them from the farthest corners of the globe.

There was Australian Samantha Conlan, clever, desirable, hopelessly in love with married Jewish New Zealander Freddy Goldstein, who carried with him a dark history. Rajiv, an earnest young Indian at work on a study of Yeats and the Indian mind. The enigmatic Margot, whose bond with her athletic brother Mark troubled Laszlo in ways he didn't quite understand. Heather, the call girl with whom Laszlo exchanged lessons on Shakespeare for lessons in love.

The great writers of the time, and the details of their lives are recorded by Samantha in her idiosyncratic research project that she named her Secret History of Modernism. There was all of that and more, and then there was Laszlo, knocking blindly about among them, despairing at his academic prospects, and gradually realising that he was, would only ever be, a storyteller. Now, years later, from the other side of the world, the people seem to spring to life again, in this beguiling work by one of New Zealand's foremost writers.


About C.k. Stead

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C.K. Stead was Professor of English at the University of Aukland until 1986. In 1984 he was awarded the CBE for services to New Zealand literature. He has published eleven volumes of poetry, two volumes of stories, several works of criticism, a memoir and twelve novels including, most recently, Risk.
Published August 17, 2010 by Vintage Digital. 242 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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The Guardian

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As his narrative winds down, Laszlo toys briefly with the idea of plagiarising Sammy's old title for the memoir, but, like her, he decides to abandon his project: 'It will never see the light of day.' But it has, and so Laszlo's shards of memory and speculation are in the public domain.

Jan 20 2002 | Read Full Review of the Secret History of Modernism

Publishers Weekly

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New Zealand writer Stead (Death of the Body, etc.) examines literary life in the middle of the 20th century through the prism of a writer's unrequited love for a friend, building his novel around an entertaining, engaging protagonist, Auckland novelist Laszlo Winter.

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