Formative Years

London & Oxford

London & Oxford Cont'd


Before the War

New Zealanders

The War Years

The War Years Cont'd

Heading Home


The Wordsworths & Others

Towards an Autobiography

Autobiographies & Verse


James & Others

Modern Years

The Final Years




On 14 February 1953, in a plane from Auckland, Brasch re-read Rainer Maria Rilke's The Notebook of Malte Laurids Brigge. This work was particularly significant in that it provided a title for his autobiographical sketches that would later become Indirections. It was initially 'Finestra a levante', with his explanation why: 'A Window to the East: it expresses or suggests as much as could be got into a title, probably: the return to childhood, my own origins, & the origins of the human race (& the Jews), the dawn which is the beginning of all things, the perpetual renewal, the new day.'

Rainer Maria Rilke, The Notebook of Malte Laurids Brigge. London: Published by Leonard and Virginia Woolf [at] The Hogarth Press, 1930. Brasch PT2635.I65 A9 A25

Sometime during the war years in England, Brasch bought this copy of Jacob Burckhardt's Reflections on History. After heavy gales in Dunedin in April 1953, he actually got around to reading it. He was pleased he did: '[I] felt an immediate liberation & enlargement of spirit.' He also admitted 'how glad I am to be discovering it only now.' It was a period of historical reading, because after this, Brasch started C. P. Fitzgerald's classic work History of China, which to him 'was a whole new world.'

Jacob Burckhardt, Reflections on History. London: Allen & Unwin, 1943. Brasch D16.8.BX98

C. P. Fitzgerald's History of China made Chinese history fascinating for Brasch. In June 1953, while managing the running of Modern Books in Dunedin, he extended his interest by reading Arthur Waley's Chinese Poems. Waley (1889-1966) was a noted English Orientalist and Sinologist. Although Waley never visited the Far East, he introduced and influenced a whole generation of readers to the delights of Japanese and Chinese literatures. 'The Politician' was one poem Brasch marked up in the contents page.  

Arthur Waley, Chinese Poems.London: Allen and Unwin, 1946. Brasch PL2658.E3 W478 1946

In early January 1952, Brasch read Elio Vittorini's Conversation in Sicily, which he described as 'a poetical & suggestive book but without the substance of poetry.' In March 1953, while at Amberley, a freak surfboard accident ripped his stomach muscles. Only on 21 December 1953 did he enter Mater Hospital to have an operation to repair them. He described the pre-operation requirements of a shaved belly and groin as leaving 'one hideous as a plucked chicken.' Some of his reading material included Andrew Marvell's Poems and this copy of Peter Quennell's Spring in Sicily.

Peter Quennell, Spring in Sicily. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1952. Brasch DG864.2.Q3

Brasch occasionally read New Zealand historical works. One such title was Lady Barker's Station Life in New Zealand, which he started on Christmas Day 1953, after being discharged from hospital. Told to relax, Brasch sat out on the balcony of his house and read this Whitcombe and Tombs reprint of Barker's classic account of life in Canterbury, which first appeared in 1870. He found it 'delightful because so alive & full of enjoyment.' He also made a few jottings, which included 'independence of the people in NZ' and 'intellectual interests in NZ'.

Lady Barker, Station Life in New Zealand. Christchurch: Whitcombe and Tombs, 1950. Brasch HN930.5.C3 B762 1950