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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Malcolm J. Mason

The Way Out by Malcolm J. Mason (Digit Books, Nov 1957) Cover by F. N. Carcupino.

Malcolm John Mason was a New Zealander, born 19 December 1912 in Pahiatua, Wanganui-Manawatu, and worked as a Chartered Accountant before serving with the 25th Battalion during World War 2. He was captured during the Libyan offensive in November 1941. When Italy announced the armistice in September 1943, Mason and some 26 others were removed from Campo di Concentramento No.47 at Modena. Whilst being transported, Mason and a fellow P.O.W. escaped, the story of which he subsequently related in The Way Out.

18 years later, Mason returned to the Italian village whose courageous inhabitants had saved his life when he was escaping. In gratitude, Mason offered to pay for the installation of a water pipe; the ensuing battle with bureaucracy and greed is told in his second book, The Water Flows Uphill. His third book relates some of his experiences in Japan.

He became a prolific contributor to various New Zealand publications and was President of the New Zealand chapter of P.E.N. in 1962-65. He lived in Wellington, N.Z., where he died on 7 July 1985, aged 72.

His son, Andrew Mason, was literary editor of The Listener (1981-91) and an editor for Bridget Williams Books (1991-96) before turning freelance. He died in January 2009. The Mason Publishing Scholarship was set up in New Zealand Book Council in memory of both Andrew Mason and his father.

The Way Out. A Kiwi escapes in Italy. Hamilton, New Zealand, Paul's Book Arcade, 1946; London, Digit Books, 1957.
The Water Flows Uphill. A Kiwi returns to Italy. New Zealand, Blackwood & Janet Paul, 1964; London, George Allen & Unwin, 1964.
Why Not Japan?. Wellington, Sydney, Australia, Price Milburn, 1964.

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