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Keri Hulme: Booker Prize-winning author of 'the bone people' dead at 74

Keri Hulme, second from right in July 1984 with Spiral Publishing Collective
Keri Hulme, second from right in July 1984 with Spiral Publishing Collective   -   Copyright  NZME via AP
By Euronews  with AP

Keri Hulme, the New Zealander whose 1984 novel 'the bone people' won the Man Booker Prize, has died. She was 74.

Family members confirmed Hulme died the morning of 27 December at Waimate on New Zealand’s South Island. They did not specify a cause.

Hulme worked as a tobacco picker, dropped out of law school and was a charity worker before becoming an unusual literary star when 'the bone people', her first novel, won one of fiction’s greatest prizes.

The novel was rejected by several publishers before being picked up by the obscure publisher Spiral, a New Zealand feminist collective. In the main picture, Hulme is seen with other members of the collective while holding an edition of her prize-winning novel. Note the lower case script for the title - the bone people. Hulme expressly requested that the novel’s title be written entirely in lowercase. Many publications aren't aware of this.

Hulme took almost 20 years to produce her famous novel which drew on her indigenous Maori and Scottish heritage, weaving themes of personal and cultural isolation. She later shunned the spotlight.

“There were stories of her being this literary giant,” Hulme’s nephew Matthew Salmons told the New Zealand news website Stuff. “It wasn’t really something that she discussed.

“It was never about fame for her. She’s always been a storyteller. It was never about the glitz and glam(or), she just had stories to share.”