It was their dreamtime. The wider world beckoned from the white ships sailing past Rangitoto Island, but the dream was also here on the Takapuna shoreline of Auckland, where the artist Melior Farbro grew his vegetables and let Cecilia Skyways follow her own form of Zen Buddhism in his garden hut. Where Curl Skidmore, his brilliant young head full of novels waiting to be unravelled, could dream of God, Fame, Nirvana, Great Love, or maybe just sex. Where not even the harbourfront strike of 1951 could convince them that life wasn't about poetry and painting and potential.
So begins this popular autobiographical novel, written by litterateur, inventor, and business tycoon Chen Diexian (18791940), a remarkable intellectual whose life spanned the old China and the new. Chens novel is the story of his youth, and in it he chooses to focus on his amorous and erotic developmenta rare subject in Chinese literaturerevealing his passage from innocent boy, surrounded by females, to young man, armed with a new attitude toward money, business, and the women in his life.
Chens unusual narrative, intimately combining romance and exhibitionism, unfolds to us an intriguing material reality as well as a powerful emotional world and may well be the first extended account of Chinese childhood and youth. The novel is built on our narrators relationships with the central women in his life: his mother; an affectionate nanny; his devoted wife by an arranged marriage; a tragic peasant girl; and above all, the girl next door and his most enduring love, knownafter the instrument she playsas Koto.
Patrick Hanans graceful translation brings us Chens story at its disarming best, a popular romance that is at the same time original and distinctive in both voice and theme. First serialized in Shanghai in 1913, The Money Demon appears in English for the first time; included in an appendix is The Koto Story, a short epilogue to the novel.
When Donovan O'Dwyer, his colleague and fellow expatriate New Zealander dies, Newall attends the funeral. Afterwards, Newall reveals to his old friend Bertie Winterstoke the secret that O'Dwyer carried with him to his grave. During the battle for Crete in the Second World War, a soldier in New Zealand's Maori battalion died in harrowing circumstances. Believing his commanding officer, O'Dwyer, was responsible for the death, the soldier's family placed a makutu, a Maori curse, on him.
Winterstoke demands to be told all, and in the days that follow Newall obliges. But Newall's life and O'Dwyer's are curiously interconnected and Newall finds that he must interweave O'Dwyer's tale with his own - his childhood in New Zealand, his self imposed exile in Oxford, his marriage and divorce, the pilgrimage recently made to Croatia and the promise of a new beginning that this may hold. Gradually, through a series of entwined stories, beautifully told, reflecting on decades of war and of peace, on memory and its failures, and on language and its limitations, Mike Newall comes to see a way of laying the ghosts of O'Dwyer's - and his own - past to rest.
In this witty, original and teasingly controversial account, some forty years after the death of Jesus, Judas finally tells the story as he remembers it. Looking back on his childhood and youth from an old age the gospel writers denied him, Judas recalls his friendship with Jesus; their schooling together; their families; the people who would go on to be disciples and followers; their journeys together and their dealings with the powers of Rome and the Temple.
His is a story of friendship and rivalry, of a time of uncertainty and enquiry, a testing of belief, endurance and loyalty.