"Cannibalistic Maori Behead Rupert Murdoch"

by Toby Manhire / 28 May, 2012
A French crime writer has penned three novels set in New Zealand: Haka , Utu, and La Dernière Danse des Maoris.
If nothing else, it’s the title of the year. “Cannibalistic Maori Behead Rupert Murdoch”.

Or to give the chapter its full, unmistakeably academic, heading: “Cannibalistic Maori Behead Rupert Murdoch: (Mis)representations of Antipodean Otherness in ‘Maori Thrillers”.

It’s not clear to me where Murdoch comes into it, but the Caryl Férey books under consideration in the essay, the opening chapter of a new book to be published in August, The Foreign in International Crime Fiction, are likely to be those in the French author’s “Maori saga”: Haka (2003), Utu (2004) and La Dernière Danse des Maoris (2011).

Férey, who reportedly lived in New Zealand for some time after travelling around the world in the late 80s, has won acclaim and awards for his crime novels.

The authors of the paper, Ellen Carter and Deborah Walker, are respectively student and supervisor for a PhD thesis in the School of European Languages and Literatures at Auckland University, with the working title “Any publicity is good publicity? How two French crime novels affect French readers’ perceptions of Aotearoa New Zealand”.

According to one US-based blogger, Ferey writes “ dark, violent books about colonised countries and their colonists’ relationships with the native population”.

But Walker is no fan. According to the blurb for a talk last year:

Caryl Férey sought to disguise his outsider status and bolster the ethnographic credibility of his two “Maori” thrillers, by appropriating tropes from postcolonial literature and travellers' tales.

Here I will talk specifically about how, in our view, Férey's ill-informed bricolage of noir and postcolonial tropes turns key moments of his text into the worst kind of postmodern pastiche, in which the author's flawed representations of Maori and Polynesians morph into exotic Antipodean others, almost unrecognisable to an informed New Zealand reader but problematically credible to his French audience, to judge by prizes won as well as popular acclaim.

On a related note, see Craig Ranapia’s postcard from Cologne, and his discovery of a German novel called Die Tränen der Maori-Göttin.

h/t @modernletters
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