Owen Marshall is a renowned short story writer and novelist, who worked for more than 25 years as a teacher before retiring to work full time as a writer. Many critics rank Marshall among the finest, if not the finest, of New Zealand’s short story writers. His novel Harlequin Rex (1999) won the 2000 Deutz Medal for Fiction at the Montana Book Awards. His writing has been extensively anthologised and he has edited several collections of New Zealand short stories. He has received numerous honours, awards and fellowships for his work and in 2000 became an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) for services to literature.
Place of residence: Timaru, New Zealand
Owen Marshall has twice received the Lilian Ida Smith Award, in 1986 and 1988. He was the Robert Burns Fellow at the University of Otago in Dunedin in 1992.
Marshall was also the 1996 recipient of the Meridian Energy Katherine Mansfield Memorial Fellowship. One of New Zealand's most long-standing and prestigious literary awards, the fellowship is offered annually to enable a New Zealand writer to work in Menton, France.
He received an ONZM for services to literature in the 2000 New Year's Honours list. In the same year, he received the Deutz Medal for Fiction at the Montana New Zealand Book Awards for his novel Harlequin Rex (1999), which went on to be translated and published overseas.
'Y2K is past, the computer and the fridge are still working, but in Owen Marshall's new novel Harlequin Rex the millennium has unexpectedly tossed up another problem, an epedemic called Harlequin which is working its way around the world early in the new century and is particularly effective, for some reason, in New Zealand... There was always an epidemic in Marshall's fictive world, in other words, a neurological disorder called the human condition...' writes Patrick Evans in New Zealand Books.
Marshall was editor of two anthologies of short fiction published in 2001. Spinning a Line collects New Zealand writing on fishing and includes contributions from Keri Hulme, Brian Turner, Patricia Grace and Kevin Ireland. In Author's Choice, New Zealand writers choose a favorite among their own short stories, and comment briefly on their choice. The contributors are Barbara Anderson, Norman Bilbrough, Linda Burgess, Catherine Chidgey, John Cranna, Fiona Farrell, Patricia Grace, Russell Haley, Witi Ihimaera, Christine Johnston, Fiona Kidman, Shonagh Koea, Owen Marshall, Vincent O'Sullivan, Sarah Quigley, Emily Perkins, C.K. Stead, Apirana Taylor, Peter Wells and Albert Wendt.
When Gravity Snaps, a collection of 24 of Marshall's short stories, was published in 2002 and was runner-up for the 2003 Deutz Medal for Fiction in the Montana New Zealand Book Awards. Gordon McLauchlan writes in the Weekend Herald 'Owen Marshall has the gift of telling stories that take hold of you in a personal way and bring echoes of people, places and events you have known, but not paid enough attention to at the time. It is a magical heightening of the ordinary.'
In 2002, Marshall was awarded an honorary Litt.D. by the University of Canterbury. and he was editor of Essential New Zealand Short Stories, published that year.
In 2003, he became the inaugural recipient of the $100,000 Creative New Zealand Writers' Fellowship, the largest fellowship available to writers in New Zealand.
A collection poetry, Occasional: Fifty Poems was published by Hazard Press in 2004. David Eggleton writes in the NZ Listener: 'The much-decorated fiction writer’s first collection of poems, entitled Occasional, is unmistakably elegiac in tone: poetic salutes to events drawn from the relentless flux of time . . . Sounding at times like a fount of received wisdom, Marshall weighs his words as if regarding you with a raised ironic eyebrow. The poems employ the same bluff, resilient, yet harmonious language as Marshall’s prose.'
In 2005, Marshall was appointed an adjunct professor by the University of Canterbury.
His 2005 short story collection, Watch of Gryphons and Other Stories (Vintage), employs a rich variety of setting and subject: the empty tussock dryness of New Zealand's South Island, the ancient stone buildings of Italy's Perugia, unsolved murder, the capricious indignity of Alzheimers disease, adoption. Several longer stories give Watch of Gryphons a special depth and resonance, but present, as always, is the startling range and subtlety of emotion that readers have come to expect. Watch of Gryphons was nominated in the 2006 shortlist for the Montana New Zealand Book Awards.
Marshall's third novel, Drybread, was published in 2007 (Vintage). 'Drybread’s success lies in Marshall’s dextrous examination of the ambiguities of relationships – between parents and children, spouses, work colleagues and lovers – and how the needs of those on the inside don’t often coincide . . . In its best moments, Drybread contains what Marshall achieves in his stories, and the narrative pace fluctuates from a thriller to a love story.' Kevin Rabalais, NZ Listener
Owen Marshall: Selected Stories, edited and introduced by Vincent O'Sullivan, was published in 2008 (Vintage). Steve Scott writes in the New Zealand Herald: 'This collection marks three decades of work in which Marshall has dedicated himself to bringing New Zealanders stories about themselves . . . Flipping through the pages of this beautifully prepared edition and reading old favourites is a joy. For those who have not yet read him, this is the perfect opportunity to become acquainted with the master story-teller - nobody tells our stories better.'
Marshall also contributed a short story to The Best of New Zealand Fiction. Volume Three (Vintage, 2006), and edited The Best of New Zealand Fiction. Volume Five (Vintage, 2008).
He was President of Honour of the New Zealand Society of Authors in 2007/2008, and in 2007 became the inaugural recipient of the NZSA and Woolaston Estates Writers' Residency in Nelson.
In Essential New Zealand Short Stories (Random House NZ, 2009), Marshall gives a sampler tour of works by celebrated New Zealand writers: including the likes of Katherine Mansfield and Frank Sargeson, and fresh young talent such as Eleanor Catton and Craig Cliff. There could be no better guide to short New Zealand fiction than Owen Marshall, who many describe as New Zealand's best living writer of short stories.
In 2009, Marshall also edited Best New Zealand Fiction #6, in which he introduces exciting new names and showcases recent work by some of our top writers. In this volume, characters face such issues as redundancy, global warming, leaky homes and over-population, but deal with them in quirky, moving, humourous and shocking ways.
In Living as a Moon (Random House NZ, 2009), we see a new collection of the writer's short stories. The collection is rich with people exploring their own identities, and how they are affected by others. Set in both Europe and the Antipodes, the twenty-five stories are at once arresting, moving, funny and full of insight into the human condition.
Marshall was awarded with the Antarctica New Zealand Arts Fellowship (2009/2010). The programme seeks to increase understanding of Antarctica and its international importance through the work of New Zealand's top artists. His collection of poems, Sleepwalking in Antarctica and Other Poems, was published by Canterbury University Press in 2010.
Owen Marshall contributed to Timeless Land (Random House, 2010). Timeless Land is a collaborative book, and features work from two other New Zealand talents: painter Grahame Sydney and poet Brian Turner. The work has grown out of their appreciation for the landscapes of the Central South Island. It is the fourth edition of a much-loved and distinguished book, first published in 1995.
He was interviewed by John McCrystal in the anthology, Words Chosen Carefully, edited by Siobhan Harvey (Cape Catley Ltd, 2010).
His novel, The Larnachs, was published by Vintage in 2011. Kelly Ana Morey reviewed the novel in the NZ Herald, 'The Larnachs is a thoughtful, tender love story with...an awful lot of lovely, restrained writing by Marshall.'
Owen Marshall is currently a New Zealand Book Council Board member.