Middleton, Ian

Middleton, Ian

In Brief

Ian Middleton (1928–2016) was a fiction writer best known for his novels set in post World War II Japan. A full-time writer since 1982, Middleton also worked as a merchant seaman and as an English teacher in Japan from 1974–82. He authored the ‘Japanese trilogy’, three novels in which a personal dimension focuses the society and psychology of post-war Japan. His writing was described as, ‘sensual—often erotic,’ and characterised by a ‘lush verbal richness.’

FROM THE OXFORD COMPANION TO NEW ZEALAND LITERATURE

Middleton, Ian (1928 – ), is a novelist who has made a particular mark with fiction about post-war Japan. Brother of O.E. Middleton, born in New Plymouth and brought up in Taranaki, Te Kuiti and wartime Auckland, his work experience included periods as a merchant seaman and as an English teacher in Japan, 1974–82. He now lives in Auckland and has been a full-time writer since 1982.

His first novel, Pet Shop (1979, rpt. 1990), dealt with a small-town New Zealand childhood, Auckland wartime adolescence and experience on board a Norwegian tanker, and with a fervid sexuality rendered in lavishly metaphoric and descriptive prose. Kevin Ireland praised it on republication as ‘an absorbing picture of the repressions that passed for a moral code’. The fourth, Mr Ponsonby (1989), vividly recreates the atmosphere and characters of an Auckland suburb threatened by reconstruction. In the ‘Japanese trilogy’, comprising Faces of Hachiko (1984), Sunflower (1986) and Reiko (1990), a personal dimension focuses the convincingly complex portrayals of the society and psychology of modern Japan and its conflicts of understanding with foreigners. The sense of inwardness with Japanese culture and thought is a rare attribute in Western writing. The strong metaphoric colour, sensual—often erotic—quality and lush verbal richness of his writing have been attributed to Middleton’s blindness, which he himself describes as giving a special perspective but ‘without limitation’.

RR

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Updated January 2017.