Frame, Janet (1924–2004) By Pottroff, Christy
Janet Frame was a celebrated New Zealand author with a prolific literary career and a dramatic personal history. Mirroring Frame’s own life, her writing frequently addresses poverty, marginalization, and the artist’s struggle in a conformist society. Both her prose and her poetry combine elements of modernism with magical realism. After a suicide attempt at university, she was misdiagnosed with schizophrenia and spent eight years in mental hospitals in New Zealand, including the notorious Seacliff Lunatic Asylum, where she received numerous electroshock treatments. In 1952, while Frame was in the asylum, New Zealand’s Caxton Press published her collection of short fiction entitled The Lagoon and Other Stories, which was awarded a prestigious national literary prize, the Hubert Church Prose Award. At the time, Frame was scheduled to have a lobotomy—until hospital officials discovered that she had won the award. In total, Frame was the author of twelve novels, four short story collections, one book of poetry, and three volumes of autobiography. She received many awards and honors, and her writing has garnered numerous literary prizes and much critical attention.