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Cather
Willa Cather
Passport photograph
1920

 

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Willa Cather first visited the Southwest in 1912. She traveled in the region often for the rest of her life, staying variously with Mary Austin and the Luhans. She was raised in Red Cloud, Nebraska, and though she spent much of her adult life far from the Nebraska prairie, Cather wrote throughout her life about her home state. Her many novels about the Plains region, including O Pioneers! (1913), My Antonia (1918), and the Pulitzer Prize–winning One of Ours (1926), are among the most important texts written about this region. However, among her most successful novels is Death Comes for the Archbishop (1927), which takes place in New Mexico. Of the writing of this book, Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant wrote: “In those ruined cliff houses of the Southwest that Willa loved so well there is always a little low, shut-in storage cave at the back, where the corn for the year of dearth used to be piled away by the Indians. Such a cave of many-colored New Mexican corn Willa had had in the back of her mind for years. Suddenly she drew on it and was released from the long hunger of the artist to communicate something of moment. The narrative, as she called Death Comes for the Archbishop, almost wrote itself, in a very short space of time, and the happy mood of its conception never left her.”1

1 Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant, Willa Cather: A Memoir, Philadelphia: Lippencott, 1953, p. 222.

 

 

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