Thieving Facts and Reconstructing Katherine Mansfield’s Life in Janice Kulyk Keefer’s Thieves

Monica Latham


The aim of this article is to examine how the biographical material that Janice Kulyk Keefer “steals” from Mansfield’s life is used to re-create a “quasi-real” life in a novel which absorbs reality, digests it, and offers an oxymoronic, semi-fictitious product: a biofiction. Keefer selected biographèmes or kernels of truth on which her fictitious details and characters could be grafted: following Mansfield’s physical, emotional and intellectual trail was an imperative part of Keefer’s research plan, as essential as close reading of the modernist author’s letters and journals. Besides seamlessly fusing reality and fiction, historical and imaginative truths, these hybrid products bring together the characteristics of literary and genre fiction. The article also focuses on the generic aspect of Thieves, which “sells” a scholarly literary background by using a commercial format that borrows features from popular genres such as love stories, thrillers, mystery and detective novels. The result is a multi-layered story endowed with great narrative virtuosity and variety, with leaps in time and space and with parallel stories that finally intersect. The article ultimately concludes with more general considerations on how such biofictions recreating the myth of iconic figures have proved to be a flourishing literary genre on the current book market.


This article was submitted to the EJLW on 28 November 2013 and published on 14 October 2014.


Katherine Mansfield; biofiction; life writing; generic hybridism

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