Alan Duff, son of a Maori mother and a European father, was born in Rotorua, New Zealand, in 1950. He grew up in a public housing estate. When his parents divorced, he moved in with relatives, and ran away for the first time at age 12. The Youth Court sent him to an adjustment centre. The memories of his childhood are the theme of his book »Out of the Mist and Steam« (1999). Duff has been an independent writer since 1985, and also works as a columnist for various newspapers. His texts are repeatedly marked by a harsh and often controversial criticism of New Zealand politics. In his vast oeuvre, Duff depicts the modern life of the native population of his country. He is convinced that the social problems of the first nations are also a result of lacking educational opportunities. The Maori will not get out of their poverty by assimilating to the culture of the European colonial powers, as his novels show. »One Night out Stealing« (1991) offers intellectual creativity and traditional spirituality as positive guidance and perspective. In his essay »Maori: The Crisis and the Challenge« (1993) he defends the thesis that many Maori remain passive and maintain an attitude of expectancy towards the government, instead of trying to improve their situation themselves. In order to escape the vicious circle of illiteracy and violence, Duff launched the »Books in Homes« programme in 1995, which gives books to 80,000 children per year, of which fifty percent are Maori.
Alan Duff became famous in 1990, when he published his first novel »Once Were Warriors«, for which he received the P.E.N. Best First Book Award, and which was turned into a film by Lee Tamahori in 1994. The author portraits a Maori family, whose everyday life is characterized by alcohol and unemployment, physical and psychological violence. Duff tells the story in slang and dialect, and in the dynamic narrative approach of the stream of consciousness. Beth suffers from the violent attacks by her husband Jake and the death of two of her children. She finally recovers by returning to the cultural traditions of her tribe, and passes the ancient knowledge on to the next generation. For the sequel published in 1996, »What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?«, Duff received the Montana Book Award. A film based on the book was released in 1999. It focuses on Jake and his painful encounter with his own self. The last part of the Warrior’s trilogy »Jake’s Long Shadow« appeared in 2002. In 2003, the first book was shown as a musical in New Zealand. »Szabad«, a novel about the Hungarian uprising of 2001, is Duff’s first book set out of New Zealand. His most recent work is a thriller: »Who sings for Lu?« (2009) is set in Sydney. Alan Duff lives south of Paris today.
© internationales literaturfestival berlin