Farewell to Icon Barbara Anderson — 25.03.13

Writer and Arts Foundation Icon, Barbara Anderson, has died aged 86. The Arts Foundation passes on its condolences to family and friends.

The Arts Foundation was sad to hear the news of Barbara Anderson's death yesterday (Sunday, 24 March, 2013), at aged 86. 

In 2011 Barbara was awarded an Arts Foundation Icon Award - Whakamana Hiranga .  This Award honours senior New Zealand artists for their life-long achievements.  Barbara was recognised as being a leader in New Zealand Literature.  The Award is considered the Arts Foundation's highest honour and is limited to a living circle of twenty artists.

Elizabeth Knox writes:

"Barbara Anderson is proof that an artist can start late and produce a substantial and original body of work. Barbara started late, but she was always a writer in waiting, and she brought to her work the lifetime experiences of a sharp and worldly observer of communities, workplaces, families and individuals. Hers is a graceful, surefooted prose that seemed fully formed at the start of her career - then kept getting better. She has a remarkable ear for dialogue, and an acute sense of how people represent themselves to themselves, and to others. Barbara has an amusing, amused and deeply humane view of human life. And her novels, with their combination of vitality, gaiety and gravity, are unique in our literature."

And some words from playwright Roger Hall:

"I first came across Barbara Anderson's work when she submitted a play for Playmarket's big workshops back in the 1980s. As far as I can recall, Susan Wilson and I supported her submission, amidst some opposition, to be workshopped because of its fresh and quirky dialogue that leapt off the page. A couple of years later, she submitted another play, equally funny, called Gorillas, "a farce involving the double bookings of a convention centre by both Rotarians and psychiatrists.They combine for a fancy dress ball, infidelities and penetration by undercover agents." Who could resist such a plot? Every professional theatre in the country, alas, more fool they.

But theatre's loss was fiction's gain, and she found both her voice and public acceptance, with  her wonderful ear for dialogue serving her well in all of her fine novels and short stories. Ironically, one of her most successful stories, "Up the River with Mrs Gallant" consists almost entirely of indirect speech--and yet one hears precisely what each character says.

A lovely lady who will be very sadly missed."