There’s a nice round-up of New Zealand writers’ reflections on visiting Menton, France, in this recent Stuff article.
As the article explains, there is an annual fellowship for a mid-career NZ writer to visit and work at the Villa Isola Bella at Menton in France, where NZ short story writer Katherine Mansfield spent her final years.
The fellowship has been running for fifty years, and this article collects the memories of some of those lucky writers who have made the trip to the other side of the world and tried – or failed – to ingratiate themselves into the life of a town in the south of France.
I really enjoyed reading tales of squatters, getting locked out, buying a TV to watch the Tour de France, as well as just feeling KM’s ghost in various corners.
As one writer comments, reflecting on her own stay in Menton in 1995:
In the afternoons we took local buses up into the mountains and walked between villages. We met eccentric British ex-pats, and French locals who were unfailingly kind and courteous. We entered a Mediterranean bubble. No Internet. No television. No radio. No phone. We queued with everybody else at the payphone on the Avenue de Sospel.
I’ve never visited Menton, but I’d really like to one day.
Although I do the webmastering for the Katherine Mansfield Society, I’ve only ever attended one of their events – at the penthouse suite atop New Zealand House on London’s Haymarket. This September’s conference in Menton has, of course, been postponed. But maybe I should try and go to the next one…