I just finished reading ‘Janet Frame: The Complete Autobiography’. She is a New Zealand author whom I just discovered a fortnight ago in the article ‘In Search of Janet Frame’ written by Jane Campion. Jane Campion is a New Zealand film director and her 1990 film ‘An Angel at My Table’ is based on Janet Frame’s autobiography.
“The Complete Autobiography” traces Janet Frame’s life from childhood up through her 30’s. She grew up in a materially poor, but intellectually rich household. Her story is about how she always felt outside, like an oddball, never ‘fitting in’. The way that many creative people feel. Janet was mis-diagnosed with schizophrenia and was hospitalised for most of her 20’s. Her first book ‘The Lagoon and Other Stories’ was published in 1951, won the Hubert Church Memorial Award, at that time one of New Zealand’s most prestigious literary prizes and resulted in the cancellation of a scheduled lobotomy. When she came out of hospital in 1955, she had the good fortune of meeting the author Frank Sargeson who let her live in an army-hut in his garden and mentored her while she was writing her first novel. With his encouragement, Janet applied for and received a £300 grant to travel and live in the UK and Europe to ‘develop herself as a writer’.
During the next seven years, Janet Frame lived in London with sojourns to Ibiza and Andorra. She spent several years in psychoanalysis to alleviate the ill-effects of her previous hospitalisation. But most importantly she found her voice and confidence as a writer.
“Now that writing was my only occupation, regardless of the critical and financial outcome, I felt that I had found my ‘place’ at a deeper level than any landscape of any country would provide. . . . I now felt, inhabiting my ‘place’, that day by day I could visit the Mirror City and ponder questions that only those trying to practise a form of art have time for: artists, monks, idlers, any who stand and stare.”
I found her autobiography inspiring and interesting from the standpoint of tracing an creative person’s journey and finding one’s creative place in the world. I don’t quite understand Janet Frame’s ‘Mirror City’, but I think that she is referring to the place that every creative person, whether they be a painter, writer, musician, actor, fibre artist has inside of them. If they are lucky and brave enough, they will uncover, treasure, explore, share and learn to live in that place. I know I have one . . . . . . . my Inspiraculum.
Where is your place?