Stephanie de Montalk

Unquiet World: The Life of Count Geoffrey Potocki de Montalk

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Poet, polemicist, pagan and pretender to the throne of Poland – and one of the great eccentrics of the 20th century.

Count Geoffrey Potocki de Montalk was one of the glittering generation of NZ poets of the 1930s, along with his friends A.R.D. Fairburn and R.A.K. Mason. However, his career took a strange turn: he was imprisoned for obscene libel after a celebrated trial in London (at which he was defended by Leonard Woolf and other luminaries), then became increasingly eccentric: dressing in mock-medieval garb, claiming the throne of Poland, and issuing a stream of poetry and pamphlets from his base in the South of France; before returning to NZ in the 1980s and 90s.

Unquiet World is the first time the full story of this fascinating but fugitive figure has been told. It will be of interest to those interested in the literature of obscenity, the history of censorship, and private press publishing in the twentieth century.

More than simply a biography, this is a beautifully written memoir of an emerging writer’s engagement with a subject that is not only of central cultural significance, but is also intensely personal.

Stephanie de Montalk succeeds in bringing her implausible relative to plausible life. His various exploits on a worldwide stage are set in a meticulously researched analysis of the context of their times, and in openly acknowledging a complex and shifting personal relationship with her quarry, she charts the subjectivity that must go into the making of any biography.’ —Ruth Brown, Times Literary Supplement

‘Every once in a rare while, a subject and an author admirably suited to each other connect and the result is a book of outstanding interest and merit. Unquiet World is one such many poets, she writes prose very well. This quality is yet another that lifts this book from the domain of biography into that of literature.’ —Michael King, Dominion

‘A masterpiece of personal essay writing.’ —Gregory O'Brien, Listener 

‘This critical biography of a difficult, colouful aristocrat makes us yearn for the eccentric.’ —Emmet McElhatton, Northern Advocate

‘Count Potocki was a fascinating person and Stephanie de Montalk has done him proud by writing an equally fascinating book about him.’ —Rose Swindells, Salient

Stephanie de Montalk is the award-winning author of three collections of poems; The Fountain of Tears, a novel that imagines the narrative behind Pushkin’s great poem of impossible love, ‘The Fountain at Bakhchisaray’; and Unquiet World: The Life of Count Geoffrey Potocki de Montalk, which was published to acclaim in 2001 and has been translated into Polish. Stephanie's most recent publication is How Does It Hurt? (2014), a memoir and study of chronic pain. Described by Damien Wilkins as ‘groundbreaking and riveting and beautiful’, the work was published to critical and medical acclaim, and received a Nigel Cox Award at the 2015 Auckland Writers' Festival. Stephanie was the 2005 Victoria University Writer in Residence, and she lives in Wellington.

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