The Edge of the Alphabet

Janet Frame

Introduction by Catherine Lacey

Fitzcarraldo Classic No. 6 | French paperback with flaps, 296 pages
Published 29 August 2024

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Toby Withers, a young man with epilepsy, leaves New Zealand after the death of his mother. While on board a ship to England, he meets Zoe, a middle-aged woman looking for a life of meaning and Pat, an Irishman who claims to have many friends but treats people with carelessness. Alike in their alienation, all three embark on a new life in London, piecing together an existence in the margins of the urban world. The Edge of the Alphabet, the third novel by Janet Frame, one of New Zealand’s foremost writers of the twentieth century, is a piercing, startlingly strange work about identity, the post-colonial experience and the search for connection in a lonely world, published here on the centenary of her birth with a new foreword by Catherine Lacey.

‘Intensely personal, her writing is always spiralling in on itself, towards the condition of myth, and yet it nails the moment, pins down experiences so fleeting that others would never grasp them. What eludes ordinary language, she can capture in the extraordinary argot of her imagination.’
— Hilary Mantel

‘She is a singular writer. No one is quite like her.’
— Eleanor Catton, author of The Luminaries

‘Frame achieved that supremely difficult task of finding a voice so natural it feels almost as if it were not written.’
— Jane Campion, Guardian

‘[Frame] is endowed with a poet’s imagination, and her prose has beauty, precision, a surging momentum, and the quality of constant surprise.’
— The Atlantic

’[Frame] meditates upon the disrelation between inner and outer landscapes, mental and physical colors, cruelty and the withdrawal from cruelty, the experience of chaos, of inexplicable evils, of broken perceptions.’
— New York Times

‘She has shown, so quietly, a mastery of the English language which dazzles one beyond ordinary praise.’
— Naomi Mitchison

‘Everything she presents is illuminated and thrown into sharp focus by the limpid clarity of a highly individual vision; she can be detached and passionate at the same time.’
 — Fleur Adcock

Praise for An Angel at My Table

‘One of the great autobiographies of the twentieth century … A journey from luminous childhood, through the dark experiences of supposed madness, to the renewal of her life through writing fiction. It is a heroic story, and told with such engaging tone, humorous perspective and imaginative power.’ 
— Michael Holroyd, Sunday Times

Janet Frame (1924–2004) was a celebrated New Zealand author of novels, short stories, poetry and the three-volume autobiography An Angel at My Table that was adapted for cinema by Jane Campion. Janet Frame won numerous local and international literary prizes including the Commonwealth Prize for Best Book. She was an Honorary Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and held two honorary doctorates. She was awarded a CBE in 1983 and in 1990 she was made a Member of the Order of New Zealand, the country’s highest civil honour. Her work is in print around the world and has been translated into many languages.

Catherine Lacey is the author of five books, most recently the novels Biography of X and Pew. Her honours include the Brooklyn Public Library Book Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Award, the Young Lions Fiction Award, and a fellowship from The Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers. Her first work of non fiction, The Möbius Book, is forthcoming in 2025.