Garvin Robert Gilbert : an account of his life and work.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts (Hons)
This thesis examines the writing of Garvin Robert Gilbert (1915-1992) following the candidate's retrieval of a large amount of unpublished material from the writer's deceased estate in 1999 and interviewing of his widow, Joy Gilbert. Some account of this process is given in the introduction. The purposes of the thesis are to construct an account, hitherto unavailable, of the sequence and formative events of Gilbert's life and particularly of the connexions between the phases of that life and the phases of his writing, to assess the degree and nature of his relationship to Frank Sargeson, a friend and mentor of Gilbert in his earlier years and someone generally accepted to have influenced the way he wrote in the early postwar period, to trace any links that exist between his published and his unpublished writing, and between his writing as a whole and the work of those of his contemporaries who provide a meaningful context for him, as well as to give reasons for Gilbert's consistent failure to find professional publication in his rather forlorn "second career", 1980-94. The first chapter gives an account of the literary background of the early period of cultural nationalism in New Zealand in which Gilbert first moved from being what he called a "reading" man to a "writing" man, and emphasizes particularly the realism that appears to have been a given of the period. The second chapter examines the professionally published work of his earlier years, Free to Laugh and Dance (Caxton, 1942), Glass-Sharp and Poisonous (Caxton, 1952), and Love in a Lighthouse (Pegasus, 1956). Chapter Three looks at the unpublished work of the first period of his retirement, particularly the post-nuclear thriller "The Descent into Silence", his vast, idiosyncratic novel "Energy Island", and his autobiography. Chapter Four examines the material Gilbert published himself during the last nine years of his life under the imprint "Dean Farran Printproductions", his own vanity press. It is argued, finally, that a study of Gilbert is most valuable for the context it gives to New Zealand fiction of the two significant periods of New Zealand literature in which he wrote.