Former Cumberland Lodge principal, Alastair Niven, has contributed a chapter on 'Cumberland Lodge: Honouring Hena in the Right Setting' to a new book published by Brill, which pays tribute to the pioneering postcolonial scholar, Hena Maes-Jelinek.

Published this week, The Cross-Cultural Legacy: Critical and Creative Writings in Memory of Hena Maes-Jelinek retraces the life and career of a remarkable intellectual figure. 

As a Czech-born Jew, Hena Maes-Jelinek (1929-2008) spent much of her wartime childhood in the care of nuns. Towards the end of the Second World War she was captured and imprisoned in a concentration camp but she survived and ultimately went on to become a professor at the University of Liège in Belgium.

She is widely considered to be one of the founders of the study of Commonwealth literature and of postcolonial studies in Europe. In particular she pioneered the study of Caribbean literature in Belgium and Europe and she wrote extensively on the Guyanese writer, Wilson Harris.

She was particularly fond of Cumberland Lodge and after her death in 2008, a conference on postcolonial studies was convened here in her memory.

The Cross-Cultural Legacy explores the works of postcolonial writers and scholars who inspired her, including Wilson Harris, Ben Okri, Leone Ross, Kamau Brathwaite, Jamaica Kincaid, Peter Carey, Murray Bail, Patrick White, Janice Kulyk Keefer, Dan Jacobson, Joseph Conrad, and Eslanda Goode Robeson.

Alongside Alastair Niven, contributors include: Gordon Collier, Tim Cribb, Fred D'Aguiar, Geoffrey V. Davis, Jeanne Delbaere, Marc Delrez, Jean–Pierre Durix, Wilson Harris, Dominique Hecq, Marie Herbillon, Louis James, Karen King–Aribisala, Bénédicte Ledent, Christine Levecq, Alecia McKenzie, Carine Mardorossian, Peter H. Marsden, Annalisa Oboe, Britta Olinder, Christine Pagnoulle, Caryl Phillips, Lawrence Scott, Stephanos Stephanides, Klaus Stuckert, Peter O. Stummer, Petra Tournay–Theodotou, Daria Tunca, Cynthia vanden Driesen and Janet Wilson.

Their essays delve into topics such as Caribbean treatments of the Jewish Diaspora, Swiss-Caribbean authors, the contemporary Australian short story and the Asian connection, and ‘habitation’ in Australian fiction, as well as a searching examination of the socio-political fallout from the scandal of Australia’s ‘Stolen Generations’. Caryl Phillips also revisits his earlier reflections on the ‘European tribe’. 

The Cross-Cultural Legacy is now available to buy in hardback or as an e-book online. It is edited by Gordon Collier, Geoffrey V. Davis, Marc Delrez, University of Liège, and Bénédicte Ledent, University of Liège.