Emile Zola (J’Accuse)

Most of us know the Dreyfus case but do we all know that one of the finest writers and thinkers in the French language played an important role in its eventual outcome.

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Writing about Dylan Thomas (see under Notes on the Old and the New) got me thinking about writers moving to new towns. Dylan Thomas had moved several times. By the time he’d settled into the small town of Laugharne he had gathered ample idiosyncratic material to populate his fictional town Llarregub.  With license to exaggerate, caricature and lampoon, Dylan Thomas spun yarns among friends and entertained gatherings with tall tales. There is a funny story told by one of his friends who, on a visit to London wrote to Thomas that he feared he was being followed… by a man in a bowler hat.  It was the 1950’s when most City and Establishment exec’s wore bowler hats and pinstripe and carried black brollies and briefcases.

The el tracks (More thoughts on place and identity.  8023787865_9a1ee52a14-210x300
The El tracks. Bridgette Guerzon Mills and Angie McMonigal

I have long been interested in what impressions a Writer forms at the off…; the landscape, architecture, the sounds and smells they may pull in or filter out before moving onto character for we all look for character?  I find this the more interesting and have asked. Writers it seems, may find, like those who research the perfect murder plot, that the combination of curiosity and observation and research brings a flavour to the experience that can have undesirable consequences. I am thinking here about the response Hilary Mantel had to her short story: “Assassination of Margaret Thatcher” when in an interview she described a scene when the idea for the story came to her and later upon publication, questions were asked suggesting some actual wrongdoing might have occurred. Is this curious blend of observation, curiosity and imagination a problem?


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Dylan Thomas

A note on the works of a man that goes hand in hand with the land that he walked.

For those who have not discovered this man and his writing, a centenary year is passing.  It has been a celebration year in Wales and around the world and surprisingly for me, I learn that his work “Under Milk Wood” is especially well-regarded in Germany.

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THE ROYAL GAMEA short story by Stefan Zweig.

Stefan Zweig was one of the most read and respected intellects of the early twentieth century but fell out of favour or at least interest waned until recently when his work has been rediscovered.  Born in Austria (1881) and exiled, later naturalized in the UK (1939-) he presented as a dissatisfied, deeply infected idealist.  He disliked classification, racism and condemnation of any nation to the point of self persecution in his attempts to function as a writer and intellectual; in his personal life he chose to remain aloof of the popularity that exposed him to the distasteful minds and attitudes that he sought to change.  He travelled widely to escape boredom and which, in itself never satisfied.

As a short story writer Stefan Zweig, concluded that it was his curiosity in private life, contrary to his dislike of others prying into his, that drove his writing, excited his senses and presented him with the creative means to write for his own pleasure.  He enjoyed the challenge of cutting a 100,000 word manuscript down to the bare bones, usually ending with less than half, requiring concentration and repeated effort.

Of the numerous works this writer produced, I recommend “The Royal Game” of which the extract below (click on continue reading)  gives some insights.

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