Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
thesis_access.pdf (485.23 kB)

Antipodean Naivety in the Contact Zone of Berlin: New Zealand writers in Berlin before and after the fall of the Wall

Download (485.23 kB)
posted on 2021-11-16, 03:36 authored by Tahana, Jordin

The Man from Nowhere & Other Prose by James McNeish (1991), Berlin Diary by Cilla McQueen (1990), To Each His Own by Philip Temple (1999), and Phone Home Berlin: Collected Non-Fiction by Nigel Cox (2007) are all texts written by New Zealand writers who either visited or lived in Berlin before and after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Their texts chronicle their experiences in Berlin and capture their observations of and reflections on the city, its people and their place as New Zealand writers in Berlin. This thesis discusses the texts they wrote while in Berlin, focussing particularly on the images of war, walls and the idea of ‘antipodean naivety’. My introductory chapter provides a brief history of New Zealand writers in Berlin. The chapter addresses key historical events which took place in Berlin and how they gave rise to artistic and cultural initiatives, providing the opportunity for McNeish, McQueen and Temple to be in the city. In the second chapter, I consider the images of war found in the writers’ texts. McNeish, McQueen and Temple focus particularly on Berlin’s Second World War history and to a lesser extent on the Cold War. I examine the reasons why they focus so heavily on this part of Berlin’s history, especially when the city has a much longer and broader military history that is ignored by the writers when they address issues of war and conflict in their texts. My third chapter addresses images of walls. For the artists and writers resident in Berlin before the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Berlin Wall is a prominent feature in their texts. But as foreigners to the city and country, they encounter other ‘walls’ such as language and cultural barriers. These metaphorical boundaries are examined further in my fourth chapter which discusses the idea of ‘antipodean naivety’. I apply Mary Louise Pratt’s theory of the ‘contact zone’ in reverse to the experiences of McNeish, McQueen and Temple in Berlin. In my fifth and final chapter I contrast the work of Nigel Cox who was in Berlin ten years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and for a different purpose. Perhaps surprisingly Cox nevertheless responds to Berlin in similar ways to the other New Zealanders. I argue that as New Zealanders these writers come to Berlin from a small country on the other side of the world with a less grandiose history to a country they think they know. In reality, the way the writers interpret their surroundings and the things on which they focus in their texts - almost always Berlin’s twentieth century history - illustrates how little they know about the city, but also suggests how unsettling the experience of the contact zone is, especially when it is such a historically and ideologically-loaded place, and how it makes them aware of their place of origin and their own naiveties and anxieties.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Arts

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

970120 Expanding Knowledge in Languages, Communication and Culture

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Languages and Cultures


Weevers, Lydia; Millington, Richard