Wenz Reinvented: The Making and Remaking of a French-Australian Transnational Writer



This paper analyses the work of Paul Wenz (1869–1939). Born in Reims, France, Wenz moved to Australia in the 1890s, settling in New South Wales and establishing himself as a grazier. Beginning in 1900, he published several short stories and novels set in Australia. He wrote nearly all of his texts in the French language. Although he was part of literary circles in Australia in the 1920s and 1930s, his writing was little known there and his few works in English garnered little attention. Interestingly, however, his writing has recently found a new audience. First in the mid-1980s to 1990s, then in the 2000s and 2010s, Wenz’s work has been recouped: retranslated, republished and redisseminated – both for a French audience and especially for a contemporary Australian audience. In this article, we examine the different ways in which Wenz’s work has been repackaged, focusing on the paratextual elements in each stage: from Wenz’s initial writing in the early twentieth-century, to its reedition in the mid-1980s and 1990s, through to its retranslation in the early twenty-first century. We chart the stages of the reception of Wenz’s work and its successive translations in order to understand the changing profile of Australian literary studies and of French-Australian cultural connections.

The first PhD awarded in Australia was to a thesis that studied French-Australian writer Paul Wenz. Erica Wolff obtained her qualification in 1948 for ‘A French-Australian Writer: Paul Wenz’ from the University of Melbourne.1 The writer in question, Paul Wenz occupies an interesting position in what is now considered ‘transnational literature’. Born in 1869 in Reims, Wenz lived in France until the 1890s, when he traveled to several areas of the Southern Hemisphere and settled in Australia. Based in rural New South Wales Wenz worked as a grazier. He also wrote. His first short stories were published in 1900: set in Australia and the Pacific Islands, they were written in French and published by a French publisher. He continued to write short stories throughout his career, alongside novels such as Le pays de leurs pères (1919), L’homme du soleil couchant (1923), Le jardin des coraux (1929) and L’écharde (1931) and…

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Published 30 April 2021 in Volume 36 No. 1. Subjects: Migrant literature & writers, Transnationalism, Helen Garner, Paul Wenz or Paul Warrego, Paratexts, Gérard Genette, Australian Research Council (ARC), The French-Australian Research Centre, Gough Whitlam, Jean-Paul Delamotte, Australian 'bush writing'.

Cite as: Edwards, Natalie and Christopher Hogarth. ‘Wenz Reinvented: The Making and Remaking of a French-Australian Transnational Writer.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 36, no. 1, 2021, doi: 10.20314/als.be8407d346.