Nicolas Kurtovitch is one of the leading literary figures in the French-speaking country of New Caledonia in the South Pacific. The twelve short stories in By the Edge of the Sea are written with a poet’s sensitivity to style and the significance of what’s left unsaid. They convey an enchantment of place in their evocation of physical settings; an enchantment too of the conscious moment; a big-hearted engagement with indigenous cultures and perspectives; and arising from all these a sense of possibility permeating beyond what the eye can see. This seminal first collection of Kurtovitch’s stories appears here in English for the first time, together with an introduction to the author’s work and New Caledonian background.
By the Edge of the Sea
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‘Charm of expression, restraint in tone, precision of line, nuance, and rhythm – these are the prime qualities of the writing of Nicolas Kurtovitch, a gifted poet and story writer. But beware – the innocuous advance from one line to the next leads us inexorably into profound existential questions, and though his texts may be set in the Pacific this geographical precision can swiftly vanish to evoke the Universal. By the Edge of the Sea – twelve fascinating short stories that compel us to look at ourselves anew.’
‘Nicolas Kurtovitch has been at the forefront of French-language Pacific literature for four decades. He has explored many different genres, but remains a poet at heart as this work in prose attests. This fine collection of short stories, the author’s first, takes us from the lagoon of his native New Caledonia to the ocean, from the mainland to the islands, from Kanak fields to Australian desert, from suburbia to the bush. Yet whilst the author always has a keen eye for place and space, the narrator does not always specify locality. These stories of beguiling simplicity take us on a complex inward journey, if we are prepared to read across the blurring of borders. By the Edge of the Sea, full of inter-cultural dialogue with self and others, remains relevant not only to New Caledonian society, striving to find its multicultural future out of its socially and racially divided past, but also to wider humanity, in the Pacific and beyond. There is, too, an abiding ecological sensitivity in this writing that conjoins human and physical geography. In short, this collection of stories retains its appeal and importance, its freshness, a quarter-century after it first appeared, and that can now be appreciated for the first time by an English-speaking public thanks to Anthony Nanson’s careful and sensitive translation.’
Peter Brown, Université de la Polynésie française / Australian National University