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Vale Keri Hulme

Aotearoa New Zealand writer Keri Hulme, author of The Bone People, the first New Zealand novel to win the Booker Prize, died in December 2021 aged 74.

First published by Spiral Press in 1984, The Bone People was Hulme’s debut novel and won the 1985 Booker Prize. It was Hulme’s only published novel, along with several collections of poetry, short stories and a novella.

According to the New York Times, Hulme was unable to find a publisher for The Bone People for 12 years, until small feminist collective Spiral signed it in the early 1980s, having never published a novel before. It has since sold over one million copies and has been translated into nine languages.

Hulme’s friend and Christchurch historian Bruce Harding told Stuff:

‘She was a bridge builder between Māori and Pākehā at a really important time in New Zealand history.

The Bone People was published in 1984, that was the year Sir Robert Muldoon’s three-term National government were ousted by David Lange, and I think the book encapsulates a vision of a bi-cultural New Zealand.

‘She could see a new type of people being forged, a fusion of cultures.’

Speaking on behalf of the New Zealand Government, Environment Minister David Parker said:

‘Keri Hulme was one of the true greats of storytelling in New Zealand and one of our most celebrated authors.

‘With themes of love, isolation and unity, The Bone People is a unique and important novel which made a significant contribution to New Zealand literature.

‘Our condolences go to Keri’s whānau and friends.’


Category: Obituaries