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A rich interplay of different kinds of writing about different kinds of war, from early pre-colonial conflicts through to the World Wars, Korea and Afghanistan.

A rich interplay of different kinds of writing about different kinds of war, from early pre-colonial conflicts through to the World Wars, Korea and Afghanistan.

Warfare, both at home and abroad, has shaped the way New Zealand defines itself: through camaraderie and courage, patriotism and politics, identity and nationhood. Soldiers writing from the front, journalists on the ground, biographers examining the lives of key figures, poets, novelists and playwrights reflecting on the experience of combat — these have all helped to form the way we think about war and so the way we think about ourselves.

The Penguin Book of New Zealand War Writing features creative responses to conflict, such as a waiata written about an inter-tribal skirmish, short stories on the World Wars, extracts from plays and novels set in such campaigns as Chunuk Bair and Vietnam, and works by various poets, including James K. Baxter, Eileen Duggan, Denis Glover, Allen Curnow and Robert Sullivan. There are vivid accounts by journalists reporting home as well as by soldiers recalling their experiences in the trenches, the desert or in the air. Rounding out this fascinating collection are thoughtful retrospective commentaries on the impact of wars from precolonial times up to Afghanistan.


'The Penguin Book of New Zealand War Writing is a massive, kaleidoscopic anthology, put together with an enjoyably light touch. The historical sweep extends from Murderers Bay in pre-colonial Aotearoa to present-day Basra, taking in well-known sites of battle and commemoration (Gallipoli, Northern France) and also wars that divided Kiwis, in Vietnam, Korea and Iraq.' - Metro


'I read this 500 page volume from cover to cover, skippingnothing, and that is rare praise for any anthology.' - Martin Edmond, NZ Books


'a volume that no-one with an interest in wars in which this country has become ensnared should miss reading. The book is a vast treasure trove of material that will surely encourage many readers — after dipping into more than 500 pages of writing devoted to New Zealanders' wars — to go further afield for information at its source.' — Otago Daily Times


'This handsome and comprehensive compilation certainly reinforces co-editor Harry Ricketts's opening observation that a case could be made for seeing war as New Zealand's most popular social activity. For a small country at the bottom of the world, New Zealand has managed to keep itself remarkably busy on the war front, even when we've had to travel thousands of kilometres to find one. So not surprisingly, all this activity has been well reflected in literature, both fictionally and in factual accounts.' — Sunday Star-Times


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Formats & editions

  • Hardback


    September 23, 2015


    528 pages

    RRP $65.00

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Also by Harry Ricketts

Strange Meetings
The Unforgiving Minute


Fromelles and Pozières
Heroes of Hamel
Australians on the Western Front 1918 Volume I
The Penguin Book Of Japanese Short Stories
The Art of War: Popular Penguins
True Believers
Scraps of Wool
Sleeps Standing
Mockingbird Songs
A Country of Refuge
The Love Book
Dickens at Christmas
Alan Titchmarsh's Fill My Stocking
A Little, Aloud
The Optimist's/Pessimist's Handbook
Another Point of View
The Wit & Wisdom of P.G. Wodehouse
Teatro Grottesco