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Keri Hulme

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Keri Hulme
Hulme, 1983
Hulme, 1983
BornKerry Ann Ruhi Hulme
(1947-03-09)9 March 1947
Christchurch, New Zealand
Died27 December 2021(2021-12-27) (aged 74)
Waimate, New Zealand
Pen nameKai Tainui
Notable worksthe bone people (1984)

Keri Ann Ruhi Hulme (9 March 1947 – 27 December 2021) was a New Zealand novelist, poet and short-story writer. She also wrote under the pen name Kai Tainui. Her novel The Bone People won the Booker Prize in 1985;[1] she was the first New Zealander to win the award, and also the first writer to win the prize for a debut novel. Hulme's writing explores themes of isolation, postcolonial and multicultural identity, and Māori, Celtic, and Norse mythology.[2][3]

Early life


Hulme was born on 9 March 1947 in Burwood Hospital, Christchurch, New Zealand.[4][5] The daughter of John William Hulme, a carpenter, and Mary Ann Miller, a credit manager, she was the eldest of six children.[6][7][8] Her father was a first-generation New Zealander whose parents were from Lancashire, England, and her mother came from Oamaru, of Orkney Scots and Māori descent (Kāi Tahu and Kāti Māmoe). "Our family comes from diverse people: Kāi Tahu, Kāti Māmoe (South Island Māori iwi); Orkney Islanders; Lancashire folk; Faroese and/or Norwegian migrants," Hulme stated.[9]

Hulme grew up in Christchurch at 160 Leaver Terrace, New Brighton, where she attended North New Brighton Primary School and Aranui High School. She described herself as a "very definite and determined child who inherently hate[d] assumed authority".[6] In 1958, when she was 11, her father died. Hulme remembered herself as being interested in writing from a young age. She rewrote Enid Blyton stories the way she thought they should have been written, wrote poetry from the age of 12, and composed short stories; her mother organised the side front porch into a study for her after her father's death.[6] Some of her poems and short stories were published in Aranui High School's magazine.[10] The family spent their holidays with her mother's family at Moeraki, on the Otago East Coast, and Hulme identified Moeraki as her turangawaewae-ngakau, "the standing-place of my heart".[2]

After high school, Hulme worked as a tobacco picker in Motueka. She began studying for an honours law degree at the University of Canterbury in 1967, but left after four terms—feeling "estranged/out-of-place"[6]—and returned to tobacco picking, although she continued to write.[7]


Hulme with a catch of whitebait in 1983

By 1972, Hulme had accumulated a large quantity of notes and drawings and decided to begin writing full-time, but, despite financial support from her family, she returned to work nine months later. She worked in a range of jobs, including in retail, as a fish-and-chips cook, a winder at a woollen mill, and as a mail deliverer in Greymouth, on the West Coast of the South Island. She was also a pharmacist's assistant at Grey Hospital, a proofreader and journalist at the Grey Evening Star, and an assistant television director on the shows Country Calendar, Dig This and Play School.[10] She continued writing, and had her work published in journals and magazines; some appeared under the pseudonym Kai Tainui.[2]

Hulme received Literary Fund grants in 1973, 1977, and 1979, and in 1979 she was a guest at the East-West Center in Hawaii as a visiting poet.[11] Hulme held the 1977 Robert Burns Fellowship and became writer-in-residence at the University of Otago in 1978.[2] During this time, she continued working on her novel, the bone people.

Hulme submitted the manuscript for the bone people to several publishers over a period of 12 years, until it was accepted for publication by the Spiral Collective, a feminist literary and arts collective in New Zealand.[12] The book was published in February 1984 and won the 1984 New Zealand Book Award for Fiction and the Booker Prize in 1985.[7][13] Hulme was the first New Zealander to win the Booker Prize and also the first writer to win the prize for their debut novel.[14] The ceremony was broadcast on Channel 4 and as Hulme was unable to attend she asked three women from Spiral – Irihapeti Ramsden, Marian Evans and Miriama Evans – to accept the award on her behalf. Ramsden and Miriama Evans walked up to the podium wearing Māori korowai, arm in arm with Marian Evans in a tuxedo, and chanted a Māori karanga as they went.[15]

In 1985, Hulme was writer-in-residence at the University of Canterbury and in 1990 she was awarded the 1990 Scholarship in Letters from the Queen Elizabeth Arts Council Literature Committee for two years. Also in 1990, she was awarded the New Zealand 1990 Commemoration Medal.[16] In 1996 she became the patron of New Zealand Republic.[17] Hulme also served on the Literary Fund Advisory Committee (1985–1989) and New Zealand's Indecent Publications Tribunal (1985–1990).[2][18]

Around 1986 Hulme began working on a second novel, BAIT, about fishing and death. She also worked on a third novel, On the Shadow Side; these two works were referred to by Hulme as "twinned novels".[2][10]

Common themes in Hulme's writing are identity and isolation.[2][3] Inspiration for her characters and stories also often came to her in dreams; she first dreamt of a mute, long-haired boy when she was 18, and wrote a short story about him called Simon Peter’s Shell. The boy continued to appear in her dreams and eventually became the main character of the bone people.[2][19]

Personal life and death


In 1973, Hulme won a land ballot and became the owner of a plot in the remote coastal settlement of Ōkārito in south Westland, on the South Island of New Zealand.[10][7] She built an octagonal house on the land and spent most of her adult life (almost 40 years) there. She vocally opposed plans to develop the settlement with additional housing or tourist facilities and believed it deserved special government protection.[20] In late 2011, Hulme announced that she was leaving the area as local body rates (property taxes) meant she could no longer afford to live there.[14][21] She identified as atheist, aromantic, and asexual.[12]

Hulme's given name was recorded at birth as "Kerry", although her family used the spelling "Keri". She legally changed her name to "Keri" in 2001.[10]

She died from dementia at a care home in Waimate on 27 December 2021, at the age of 74.[22][23][24]






  • The silences between (Moeraki Conversations) (Auckland University Press, 1982)[26]
  • Lost Possessions (Victoria University Press, 1985)[27]
  • Strands (Auckland University Press, 1993)[28]

Other works

  • Te Kaihau: The Windeater (Victoria University Press, 1986), collection of short stories[29]
  • Te Whenua, Te Iwi/The Land and The People co-edited with Jock Philips (Allen & Unwin/Port Nicholson Press, 1987), includes Hulme's autobiographical piece "Okatiro and Moeraki"[30]
  • Homeplaces: Three Coasts of the South Island of New Zealand (Hodder & Stoughton, 1989), autobiography[31]
  • Hokitika Handmade (Hokitika Craft Gallery Co-operative, 1999), description and history of the co-operative and its members[32]
  • Ahua – the story of Moki (2000), libretto of an opera based on the story of the Ngāi Tahu ancestor Moki, commissioned by the Christchurch City Choir[33]
  • Stonefish (Huia Publishers, 2004), collection of short stories and poems[34]

Adaptation into film


In 1983, Hulme's short story "Hooks and Feelers" was made into a short film of the same name starring Bridgette Allen.[35][36] In 1995, Christine Parker wrote and directed, and Caterina de Nave produced, an adaptation of Hulme's 1991 short story "Hinekaro Goes On a Picnic and Blows Up Another Obelisk".[37]


Year Award Work Notes
1975 Katherine Mansfield Memorial Award Hooks and Feelers [2][38]
1977 Māori Trust Fund Prize [2]
1984 New Zealand Book of the Year (Fiction) the bone people [39]
Mobil Pegasus Award for Māori Literature the bone people [2]
1985 Booker Prize the bone people [1] [22]
1987 Chianti Ruffino-Antico Fattore Prize the bone people [2][22][40]

See also



  1. ^ a b "Keri Hulme's official page on the Booker Prizes' website". The Booker Prizes.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Hulme, Keri". Read NZ Te Pou Muramura. 2016. Retrieved 28 December 2021.
  3. ^ a b Israel, Janine (28 December 2021). "Keri Hulme, New Zealand's first Booker prize-winning writer, dies aged 74". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 December 2021.
  4. ^ Crystal, David, ed. (2004). The Penguin Encyclopedia. Penguin Books. p. 743. ISBN 0-14-051543-7. OCLC 56479163.
  5. ^ Jones, David; Jorgensen, John D., eds. (1999). Contemporary Authors: New Revision Series. Vol. 69. Detroit: Gale. pp. 277–279. ISBN 0-7876-2038-6.
  6. ^ a b c d Hulme, Keri (Spring 2012). "Layering" (PDF). Te Karaka. 55: 5.
  7. ^ a b c d "Hulme, Keri". www.bookcouncil.org.nz. New Zealand Book Council. April 2016. Retrieved 13 November 2017.
  8. ^ Contemporary Authors Online (2012). "Keri Hulme". GALE Literature Resource Center. Retrieved 3 March 2018.
  9. ^ McLeod, Aorewa Pohutukawa (1996). "Hulme, Keri". In Kester-Shelton, Pamela (ed.). Feminist Writers. St. James Press. pp. 243–244. ISBN 1-55862-217-9. OCLC 34839791.
  10. ^ a b c d e f Welham, Keri (24 April 2018). "Keri Hulme: Bait expectations". Stuff. Retrieved 28 December 2021.
  11. ^ "Keri Hulme". www.komako.org.nz. Retrieved 28 December 2021.
  12. ^ a b "Hulme, Keri". Oxford Dictionary Plus Literature. Oxford University Press. 2016. doi:10.1093/acref/9780191823510.001.0001. ISBN 9780191823510. Retrieved 3 March 2018.
  13. ^ Smith, Anna (2001). "Hulme, Keri". In Riggs, Thomas (ed.). Contemporary Poets (7th ed.). St. James Press. pp. 571–573. ISBN 1-55862-349-3. OCLC 45148536.
  14. ^ a b "Author to quit 'nasty village'". NZ Herald. 23 December 2011. Retrieved 28 December 2021.
  15. ^ "How Keri Hulme's The Bone People changed the way we read now | The Booker Prizes". thebookerprizes.com. Retrieved 21 March 2022.
  16. ^ Taylor, Alister; Coddington, Deborah (1994). Honoured by the Queen – New Zealand. Auckland: New Zealand Who's Who Aotearoa. p. 193. ISBN 0-908578-34-2.
  17. ^ "People Involved". New Zealand Republic. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 24 January 2008.
  18. ^ "Huia | Keri Hulme". huia.co.nz. Archived from the original on 28 December 2021. Retrieved 28 December 2021.
  19. ^ "Keri Hulme, titan of NZ literature and the country's first Booker Prize winner, has died". Stuff. 28 December 2021. Retrieved 28 December 2021.
  20. ^ Newth, Kim (13 May 2001). "Sunday Times". Retrieved 29 December 2021.
  21. ^ Hulme, Keri (Summer 2011). "The lagoon, the bluff – the story of us all" (PDF). Te Karaka. 52: 7.
  22. ^ a b c "Booker prize-winning New Zealand novelist Keri Hulme dies". RNZ. 28 December 2021. Retrieved 28 December 2021.
  23. ^ Frost, Natasha (28 December 2021). "Keri Hulme, New Zealand's First Booker Prize Winner, Dies at 74". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 December 2021.
  24. ^ Parekowhai, Cushla; Evans, Marian (1 February 2022). "Keri Hulme obituary". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 10 February 2024.
  25. ^ Hulme, Keri (1985). The bone people Keri Hulme. Spiral: New Zealand. ISBN 978-0-340-37024-7. OCLC 861383049.
  26. ^ Hulme, Keri; Van Vliet, Claire; Janus Press (2016). The silences between: (Moeraki conversations). OCLC 1050148603.
  27. ^ Hulme, Keri (1985). Lost possessions. Wellington: Victoria Univ. Press. ISBN 978-0-86473-042-8. OCLC 1070158081.
  28. ^ Hulme, Keri (1993). Strands. Auckland: Univ. Press. ISBN 978-1-86940-068-2. OCLC 174342212.
  29. ^ Hulme, Keri; Hulme, Keri; Hulme, Keri (1986). Te kaihau = /The windeater. Wellington: Victoria Univ. Press. ISBN 978-0-86473-041-1. OCLC 715162155.
  30. ^ Phillips, Jock; Hulme, Keri; Stout Research Centre (Wellington, N.Z.) (1987). Te Whenua, te iwi = The Land and the people. Wellington, N.Z.: Allen & Unwin/Port Nicholson Press in association with the Stout Research Centre for the Study of New Zealand Society, History and Culture. ISBN 978-0-86861-762-6. OCLC 18349866.
  31. ^ Hulme, Keri; Morrison, Robin (1989). Homeplaces: three coasts of the South Island of New Zealand. London: Hodder and Stoughton. ISBN 978-0-340-50831-2. OCLC 24795922.
  32. ^ Hulme, Keri; Brooke-White, Julia; Hokitika Craft Gallery Co-operative Society (1999). Hokitika handmade. Hokitika, N.Z.: Hokitika Craft Gallery Co-operative Ltd. OCLC 154589061.
  33. ^ Dunbar, Anna (16 February 2000). "Settling scores". Christchurch Press. p. 34.
  34. ^ Hulme, Keri (2004). Stonefish. Wellington: Huia-Publ. ISBN 978-1-86969-088-5. OCLC 249679522.
  35. ^ Hedbäck, Ann-Mari (1996). "Keri Hulme: Scriptwriter and Storyteller". In Breitinger, Eckhard (ed.). Defining New Idioms and Alternative Forms of Expression. Rodopi. pp. 145–146. ISBN 978-90-420-0021-6.
  36. ^ The New Zealand Archive of Film, Television and Sound Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision Catalogue → F6624, Hooks and Feelers
  37. ^ Screen, NZ On. "Hinekaro Goes On a Picnic and Blows Up Another Obelisk | Short Film | NZ On Screen". www.nzonscreen.com. Retrieved 10 February 2024.
  38. ^ "Katherine Mansfield Awards". BNZ. Retrieved 28 December 2021.
  39. ^ "Trailblazers: Keri Hulme". NZ Herald. Retrieved 28 December 2021.
  40. ^ Arias, Juan (25 May 1987). "Pau Faner, ganador del Premio Chianti". El País (in Spanish). ISSN 1134-6582. Retrieved 28 December 2021.