Keri Hulme, famed novelist and Aotearoa's first Booker Prize winner has died

By Te Ao - Māori News

Aotearoa has lost one of its greatest authors, the award-winning west coast writer and poet Keri Hulme passed away shortly before noon, Monday.

Hulme (Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Māmoe) was known as a person that never searched for fame but always had a story to tell. “It was never about glitz and glam, she just has stories to share”

“She gave us as a family, the greatest gift of all which would be reconnecting us with our Whakapapa Māori and reigniting that passion for our history, our people that had been lost over a couple of generations.” Hulme’s nephew Matthew Salmons told Stuff.

Hulme was the recipient of the Man Booker prize in 1985 for her novel The Bone People; the first New Zealander to win the prestigious literary award.

Hulmes early life started in Ōtautahi (Christchurch) and was the eldest of six children. Her mother was of Maori, English and Scottish descent, her father was a settler originally from Lancashire, UK.

Her father passed away when she was 11 years old, with Hulme leaving high school to become a tobacco picker in Motueka.

Hulme pursued a law degree at the University of Canterbury but after a short while returned back to tobacco picking and continued with her writing.

Hulme decided to try her hand at writing full-time but struggled making ends meet, having returned to work she continued to write and it was during this time she penned her prize-winning novel The Bone People. Hulme recalled the book was rejected multiple times before it was accepted by The Spiral Collective in 1984.

The book instantly shot Hulme to fame among other literary giants. It won the New Zealand book award for Fiction in 1984 and in 1985 the Man Booker Prize. Hulme often recalled she didn’t think she stood a chance of winning, so didn’t bother attending the award ceremony in London.

Later in life Hulme spent her time alone in Ōkārito having constructed an eclectic, bespoke octagonal house. She would engage her creativity writing, painting and drawing 9 months of the year, spending the remaining 3 months entertaining her family.

Hulme was 74.