Author(s): Lynn Jenner
Between 2010 and 2014 Lynn Jenner made several related emotional and intellectual investigations. Lost and Gone Away is the record of these: a fascinating hybrid text of nonfiction, prose poems and poetry. The book traverses the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake; samples and sifts through the lost and recovered detritus of the ancient world; radiates its attention out from that epicentre of loss, the Point Last Seen, from which all searches begin; and quietly, devastatingly, explores how one might think and write about the Holocaust, from far away. "More than a year ago a friend, who speaks five languages and reads several more, told me it would not be possible to write about the Holocaust from New Zealand. There's so little to say here, she said. You should go to Europe. But this is where I am, I said. That is the problem. This is where I am from, this is who I am, and this is where I am."
What can we make of the fragments that remain of things otherwise lost? To what extent do these fragments embody the unregainable whole or even retain the force of loss that has been brought to bear upon the lost? Lynn Jenner’s thoughtful book ranges from the Christchurch earthquakes to the fragments of Sappho to her own close reading, from the loss of a ring to the disappearance of an individual person to the annihilation of whole communities. With the digressive range and vigour of Sebald but without his crucial narratorial slipperiness, Jenner wrings meaning out of minute detail and subtly interrogates both memory and the clichés that so easily take its place. In the last part of the book she makes one of the most difficult of literary approaches: the Holocaust and the tendrils of antisemitism that appear in unexpected places. Where Sebald succeeds in addressing the trauma of the Holocaust by writing around its edge, pointing to it with all the details that appear to be about something else, Jenner succeeds by approaching it directly but by writing always about her approach, about herself and about asking how it could be possible to think about the Holocaust from her situation in present-day New Zealand, if it is possible to think about the Holocaust at all. Jenner’s careful, unblinking, occasionally squinting awareness of herself as emotional litmus, affected by whatever she dips herself into but always tightly observed and recorded, makes this an interesting, fresh and unpredictable book. “A book could, perhaps without the writer’s intention, contain old pieces of extremist ideas, broken down into tiny grains, worn smooth from all the times they have been handled. These grains could emit a high-pitched whistle, which members of a particular group hear and experience as very unpleasant, but most people, perhaps including the author, do not hear. My book might be whistling right now at a frequency I do not hear.”
Long-listed for Ockham New Zealand Book Awards - General Non-Fiction 2016.
Lynn Jenner received the Adam Prize in Creative Writing for the manuscript of Dear Sweet Harry, which was then published by Auckland University Press and won the NZSA Jessie Mackay Award for Best First Book of Poetry. She has been widely published in the literary journals, here and overseas, including Carcanet's Oxford Poets: An Anthology, 2013.