Shirley Hazzard : Dislocation and Continuity

Shirley Hazzard has nominated, as a possible title for her talk, the phrase 'no-man's land'. If one allows that phrase to resonate images crowd into one's mind: images of war (not only the First World War with which it is particularly associated, but all wars since), of loneliness and isolation, of dislocation. It becomes, as Shirley Hazzard herself suggests, an appropriate correlative to the geographical dislocation which has become such a feature of our own world and times.

The importance of this sense of geographical dislocation is evident in all her work to date: it is common to many of the stories in her first collection. Cliffs of Fall (1963). but more particularly in the two novellas The Evening of the Holiday (1966) and The Bay of Noon (1970). At a quite superficial level it is suggested by the variety oflocations she has chosen for her fictions: the novellas are both set in Italy and the short stories take the reader from America to Switzerland, from England to Italy. While the satiric intention behind People in Glass Houses (1967) seems to require an imprecise location, there seems little doubt that America is intended. Stories which have appeared in the New Yorker but which have remained uncollected range equally widely. All this might appear to be 'self consciously cosmopolitan, as John Colmer has suggested1 but it would be manifestly unfair to Shirley Hazzard to see the variety of settings as deliberately but shallowly chosen. It is surely neither caprice nor accident that they so accurately reflect, even in this particular, what she has identified as the modern novelist's central concern.

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Published 1 October 1979 in Volume 9 No. 2. Subjects: Literary allusions & references, Literary portrayal, Short stories, Shirley Hazzard.

Cite as: Sellick, Robert. ‘Shirley Hazzard : Dislocation and Continuity.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 9, no. 2, 1979, doi: 10.20314/als.0ff2971d98.