New Zealand’s first Booker Prize winner Keri Hulme dies at 74


After attending North New Brighton Primary School and Aranui Secondary School in Christchurch, Ms Hulme worked for a season picking hops and tobacco in the Tasman area before briefly studying law at the University of Canterbury.

She went on to do odd jobs across the country before working at the post office in the rural town of Greymouth, on the remote west coast of New Zealand’s South Island. She believed it would give her time and space to write.

It was there that she learned to bait or catch tiny, transparent juvenile fish. It was an “obsession,” as she put it, that sustained her for the rest of her life. Dr Evans recalled that she routinely ran away from a writing residence with a net to catch white bait strapped to the roof of her car.

“You would see that white bait net, sort of walk through the parking lot and you knew she was running away,” he said.

Ms Hulme continued to live primarily on the West Coast, including for more than four decades in the small New Zealand settlement of Okarito, a former gold mining village, on land she won from the lottery in 1973. When she had lived further inland, she told Flash Frontier magazine in 2012, “I’m depressed and sick, I drink too much and I don’t do anything creative.”

Both shy with strangers and a generous and sociable host to those she loved, Ms. Hulme was not interested in romantic or sexual relationships, calling herself “neutral”. She never married or had children. She is survived by two sisters, Kate Salmons and Diane McAuliffe, and one brother, John Hulme, as well as several nieces and nephews.

“If you knew her, if she knew you, she would take the time and move heaven and earth to give you time and spend that time well,” said Matthew Salmons, her nephew. “The family she was born into and the family she created were of the utmost importance to her.”