Raymond Williams: a Warrior's Tale Paperback / softback
by Dai Smith
"Raymond Williams: A Warriors Tale" is a book much in keeping with its subject.
Covering the first forty years the book weaves together its subject's life with the times in which he lived.
Dai Smith makes the case that the childhood in working class Wales suffering the prolonged effects of 1926, the horrors of war as a front line soldier and the demanding years teaching adult classes in south east England, were formative for the politics, intellect and person that came later.
This history is concentrated into the first half of the book, and is the result of prolonged research by Dai Smith during which were recovered people and events, much of which will be little known to many.The later chapters are a interloculum between biographer and their subject's writings and it is these which clearly excite Dai Smith's intentions.
For here is an extraordinary find, a series of novels, began, put aside, returned to, gutted, and in important cases finished.
It is the story of how a form was developed for which existing writing proved inadequate templates. What, many years later, Raymond Williams would publicly acknowledge as, the Welsh Industrial Novel, had then few examples known outside their own localities: Gwyn Jones, "Times Like These" (1936), Lewis Jones, "Cwmardy" (1937) and "We Live" (1939), Jack Jones "Rhondda Roundabout" (1934) and later "The Dark Philosophers" (1946) and "All Things Betray Thee" (1949) by Gwyn Thomas.In these the peculiar working class experience of demographic upheaval, industrialisation and building of community, had been variously explored.
What "A Warriors Tale" brings to us is how Raymond Williams made these experiences his own in the years of writing that would eventually become Border Country.
The research for this biography though goes well beyond discovery of the drafts of novels from after the war.
For the early chapters there is a social history of south east Wales, the tracing of hitherto little known family relationships and the journeys by a boyhood Williams across England and beyond to Geneva and Paris.There is also the discovery of a potential wife, Margaret Fallas, a source of deep tension in later life. Behind the pivotal stories of war experiences are journeys by Dai Smith to Normandy and on across Europe in the path of the Regiment in which Williams served.
In each of these ventures new people and writings are unearthed which go to make up an account of a figure who expressed conflicting responses in the midst of the complex and contradictory experiences they were all living through.
In the restricted space that follows I concentrate on discussing the content of "A Warrior's Tale".
The emphasis is with the first half because here lies much of the biographical story.
The writing that came after the war requires another response and is likely to be the emphasis given by some now the book has appeared.
Yet what went into those novels makes full sense only if the experiences that shaped their writing are given due attention.
- Format: Paperback / softback
- Pages: 450 pages
- Publisher: Parthian Books
- Publication Date: 01/10/2008
- Category: Biography: literary
- ISBN: 9781905762996