Hamish Clayton was born in 1977 in Napier, New Zealand. After leaving school he moved to Wellington and worked various low-paying jobs while pursuing ambitions in painting. After a few years of limited success he chose to follow another path and enrolled at Victoria University of Wellington to study English Literature and Art History. In both lines of study he has focused largely on New Zealand subjects. His MA thesis in English Literature looked at the New Zealand graphic novelist Dylan Horrocks’s »Hicksville: A Comic Book« (1998), and examined, in part, the close relationship between New Zealand’s art and literary histories. While still completing his MA degree, Clayton began to publish criticism and reviews in journals and magazines such as »Art New Zealand« and »New Zealand Books«.
Hamish Clayton’s first novel, »Wulf«, was published in 2011. »Wulf« retells the story and dealings of English trader John Stewart with the Ngati Toa chief, Te Rauparaha, which resulted in the notorious massacre of 1830 at Akaroa on the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island. Told from the perspective of two sailors on board Stewart’s ship, the novel makes repeated use of the tenth century Anglo-Saxon poem, »Wulf and Eadwacer«, as a metaphor to explore the post-colonial politics of place in New Zealand, and the imbrications of story-telling and history. »Wulf« met with high acclaim, earning praise for its »haunting and highly original engagement with New Zealand history» in the »New Zealand Listener«, as well as its intense, lyrical prose, with Murray Bramwell describing it in »New Zealand Books« as »a powerfully imagined novel – assured, crisply poetic and spellbinding in its unfurling narrative«. The book won the 2012 NZSA Best First Book Award for Fiction and award’s convenor Chris Bourke said the judges’ considered »Wulf« to be one of the most memorable debut novels in recent times. Bourke went on to comment, »Hamish Clayton’s first novel is a work of bravura lyricism, a brilliant feat of imagining that transforms historical events which occurred in early nineteenth century New Zealand into metaphor and myth.« Clayton is currently writing a PhD thesis re-examining the work of the neglected New Zealand writer, David Ballantyne. His study is focussed, in particular, around Ballantyne’s 1968 novel, »Sydney Bridge Upside Down«, which, though often regarded as a masterpiece of New Zealand fiction, has never been given the sustained critical or academic attention the novel deserves.
As well as winning numerous awards and scholarships at University, Clayton was awarded the New Zealand Society of Authors Best First Book Award at the 2012 New Zealand Post Book Awards for »Wulf«. His second novel, this time with a contemporary setting, is currently underway, and further explores Clayton’s concerns with the nature of story-telling and the play between metaphor and reality. He lives in Wellington.
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