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This article is taken from PN Review 241, Volume 44 Number 5, May - June 2018.

on Allen Curnow

Allen Present & Absent1
C.K. Stead
EARLY IN HIS BIOGRAPHY, before he’s really discussed many of Curnow’s adult friendships, Terry Sturm writes this:

[Curnow’s] great preference (and need) was for close, trusted personal friendships, and there were not a great many of these in his life: Glover, Lilburn from this time on, and later his brother Tony and W.H. (Bill) Pearson, his colleague at the University of Auckland. He could always talk and write to these without reserve, assured that whatever confidences he revealed would be respected, and his loyalty to them in turn throughout his life was absolute. His relationship with Karl Stead, later, was more complex. It was primarily a literary relationship, based on Curnow’s side on unstinting respect for the quality of Stead’s literary judgements, but there was always an element of reserve in personal matters, a sense (perhaps unfair since Stead’s letters to Curnow were always open and direct) of never being quite sure what confidences might not be turned against him.

There’s no reference for this. It doesn’t sound to me in the least like anything Allen would have said – it’s not his style. It comes, I’m sure, from his widow, Jeny, who had written her own unpublished biography of Allen. It may even be true. I don’t think so; but if it is, the way it’s expressed here isn’t right. If there was uneasiness about me, I think it would have been about what Allen called my tendency to ‘candour. (He may have meant reckless candour.) What, after all, ...


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