Kirsty Gunn writes:
Katherine Mansfield’s work is still largely unknown in this country. Her life flickered on the margins of British literary modernism, with friends among the Garsington and Bloomsbury set, but she was always the outsider, the traveller, always on the move. There’s nothing about Mansfield that’s institutional. She knew Woolf and Lawrence and the rest, published in the same avant-garde magazines, went to the same parties and talked about the same things, but the fact that her biography doesn’t sit comfortably alongside theirs, seems more insubstantial than theirs, is due as much as anything to her idiosyncratic form of writing, one with ‘no contact with the real world at all’, as Frank O’Connor disparagingly put it. Born in New Zealand, she spent all her time in London and Germany and France just getting by, struggling with lack of money and poor health, writing in beds and bedsits, out of suitcases and in overnight hotels and all the time imagining a kind of writing that didn’t yet exist. And where everyone else in the new modernist age had time to hone their manifestos and write their big books, hers ran out in a sanatorium in Fontainebleau, where she died in 1923 at the age of 34, with only a handful of short stories to leave behind.