Raymond Williams - Dai Smith



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Raymond Williams - a warrior's tale
Dai Smith
UK Publication Date

A biography of Raymond Williams (1921-1988), using a rich array of material from hitherto unused personal papers. It examines the writer's formative years and beyond, and places its central figure within a deeply researched social and cultural history.

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Using a rich array of material from Raymond Williams's hitherto unused personal papers - juvenilia, diaries, letters, unpublished novels and stories, notebooks, work drafts and fragments - Dai Smith takes us through the formative years on the Welsh Border as the son of a railway signalman and his wife, on to Cambridge in 1939 and War service in Normandy, to show in telling detail how the making of Culture and Society (1958) and the writing of his novel Border Country (1960) was all of a piece in the conceptual breakthrough he strove to make in the 1950s.The meaning of Raymond Williams is revealed in his making. This biography places its central figure within a deeply researched social and cultural history so that we can see again, as Raymond Williams insisted we should that culture is "a whole way of life".
Publisher: Parthian Books

Raymond Williams was an inspired educator who saw the process of education as a means to social change. This biography is the culmination of years of research by Dai Smith and in 474 pages it covers the first forty years of his subject's life. I immediately warmed to the book in the opening chapter, which deals with Williams' childhood and adolescence at Pandy, where his father was an employee of a railway
company. When Williams came to write his novel Border Country he based the novel, to some extent, on his memories of this period. However, Smith is careful to point out that the novel is not necessarily autobiographical despite its vivid evocation of period and location.

From his rural working-class background, Williams emerged as a seminal cultural figure. His interests were strikingly versatile: critic, dramatist, novelist and political commentator. While at Cambridge he came under the influence of the critic F. R. Leavis. He also became active in the New Left Movement in the early sixties. Later he turned increasingly back to his roots in Wales and, having bought a cottage in the borders, began writing People of the Black Mountains. 'I am of my tribe' he once declared.

Williams' output was prolific and he published over 20 books including, notably, Culture and Society and The Country and the City. I found the account of his work for the WEA of particular interest as someone who was WEA educated during the same period.

Dai Smith covers Williams' life in tremendous detail. He has had the advantage of access to previously unpublished material and makes good use of it. Smith has truly proved to be a Boswell to Williams' Johnson and Parthian deserve our commendation on their enterprise in commissioning it. If you do not read another biography this year, do read this one.
Dewi Roberts @ www.gwales.com

Keyword Index
Authors, Welsh - 20th century - Biography.|Critics - Wales - Biography.
Country of Publication
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