Sargeson, Frank (1903–1982) By Schwass, Margot
Along with Katherine Mansfield and Janet Frame, Frank Sargeson is one of New Zealand’s most widely recognized writers. In a career spanning nearly sixty years, he wrote short stories, novels, plays, autobiography, and criticism, and was published in Britain, Australia, Europe, and the USA as well as in his own country. He is popularly viewed as founder and sentinel of the terse, masculine, and essentially realist prose tradition that dominated New Zealand literature for much of his lifetime. However, particularly since the 1980s, readers and critics have attended to qualities other than the apparently authentic ‘New Zealandness’ of Sargeson’s fiction: the narrative subtlety and stylistic sophistication that lies beneath the deceptively plain stories of the 1930s and 1940s, the savagery and compassion of his social vision, his heavily-encoded critique of conventional sexual morality, and the artistic reinvention that enabled his late-career flourishing.