RAYMOND WILLIAMS IN FLANDERS

My dad, no academic or intellectual in any formal sense, met Raymond Williams in Belgium in WW2 and never stopped talking about him. (In fact this was one of only two “war stories” that I could ever get out him. The second was about shooting down an Fw 190 from a mobile antiaircraft unit and having to formally identify the wreckage, which to his relief contained no pilot; as a schoolboy I embellished the story to include not only an eviscerated pilot but a diamond-encrusted dagger.)

1985, National Portrait Gallery
1985, National Portrait Gallery

It was mainly due to Williams’s influence that my parents became Marxists after the war. I was lucky enough to meet him once myself during some hapless years in England, at the very event Geoff Dyer mentions [linked below], although I believe he has the year wrong. Cross-eyed and probably drooling, I made some pedantic comment that Williams registered graciously without wincing. Many thanks to Mr Dyer for this elegant reminiscence in the current New Statesman.

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