Wilson, J. M. (2010) The secret self: Katherine Mansfield, World War One and ‘An Indiscreet Journey'. Poster presented to: British Comparative Literature Association (BCLA) XII International Conference: Archive, Keynes College, University of Kent, 05-08 July 2010.
Katherine Mansfield experienced the effects of war at close hand, and was one of the few modernist women writers to be acutely aware of how it had changed the lives of her generation. The death of her brother Leslie in October 1915 affected her deeply for the rest of her life and was the catalyst for her great stories about New Zealand, while her trip to Gray, the Zone des Armées in France, to visit a lover, Franco Carco, was the inspiration for her short story ‘An Indiscreet Journey’. This paper explores Mansfield’s reactions to war as coloured by these events. It focuses on her account of the trip to Gray as presented in her journals and letters, examining how she reconstructed the event in fiction and delineated the consciousness of the first-person narrator in ways that are both comparable with, yet different from, these autobiographical accounts. Secondly, with reference to the archive of accounts of this incident, I will compare Mansfield’s interpretation with that of her husband, John Middleton Murry, in his biography, Between Two Worlds, and Carco’s reconstruction in Montmartre à vingt ans, in order to explore further the border between so-called ‘fact’ and fiction. This paper suggests that the deep distress and haunting sadness at her brother’s death, and the joy, which later turned to disillusionment, of her secret union with Carco in February 1915, constituted emotionale xtremes which shaped Mansfield’s attitude towards her writing, making her capable of speaking for her generation