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I live in Bedford, England. Having retired from teaching; I am now a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Threshold Concepts in the context of A-level Physics. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. I have also recently become a keen playgoer to London Fringe Theatre. I enjoy mostly classics and I read the playscripts and add those to the blog. I am a member of Bedford Writers' Circle. See their website here: http://bedford-writers.co.uk/ Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Saturday, 29 September 2018

"Raw material" by Alan Sillitoe

Another book of several parts. Sillitoe descriptions of some of the characters in his family history alternate with speculations on what truth means for a writer and a discussion of how, in his eyes, the class-bound generalship of the First World War led to war crimes such as the execution of deserters and the slaughter of the trenches. Mr Sillitoe's furiously working-class perspective makes a refreshing change from the suffocating middle-classness of most of English writing.

Great writing:

  • "Each incident ... has more than one version, and so certain parts of this book are closer to a novel than others." (p 16)
  • "If Burton did remember his youth it was only so that he could put the experience of it to such good use that his children stood little chance of enjoying their own in his presence." (p 23)
  • "To cause someone to be born is to send them alone into the dark. Thus the most excruciating guilt comes with having given life to a child." (p 25)
  • "Life is meagre with some people." (p 45)
  • "In war it is the worst of a country that persuade the best men to die. It is easier to deceive the best than the worst. But if it is true that the best men are fools and go with ease, while the worst are cunning and find it easy to hold back, what else can war be but an utterly sure method of destroying a country?" (p 120)
  • "It was a common though jocular belief among British soldiers during the Great War that their government had to pay rent to the French for the land the trenches were dug on." (p 123 - 124)
  • "A man can hear Beethoven's Ninth Symphony with tears in his eyes, then go outside and club someone with his rifle butt." (p 134)
  • "Man chooses ... though God disputes his right to it." (p 137)
  • "You can't bring back history. You can't remake the past ... You can't alter the present either, even though you know that one day that also will be history - from the viewpoint of the future." (p 141)
  • "Beware of the man who says no. He'll enslave you as he too has been enslaved. Look out for a man who continually shouts yes. He'll destroy you before doing away with himself." (p 188)


Too much speculation about truth but his sympathetic treatment of the working class and his angry perspective on the Great War make this a very valuable counter-blast to the complacent presumptions of today. Septmeber 2018; 189 pages


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