Alun Lewis: Collected Stories
Collected Stories reprints the war stories of Alun Lewis in their entirety for the first time. It also collects stories published in student magazines and newspapers such as The Guardian, together with several previously unseen. In bringing together all this material, editor Cary Archard shows Lewis’s development from remarkable schoolboy writer to mature and established author whose stories appeared in magazines such as Horizon and Lilliput.
First published in 1991 this paperback edition, published to mark Lewis’ centenary, reminds that the stories had been surprisingly neglected since the 1940s, when Lewis was at his height as a story writer, yet still under 30 years old. It includes stories written as a schoolboy (“one of the most remarkable sets of juvenilia any great writer can have produced” according to his biographer, John Pikoulis), as a student and as a teacher in the build up to the war. Lewis moved towards representing topical and political events in fiction and his subjects in this period included the impact of Italian fascism in south Wales.
As with Lewis’ poetry the war, and his enlistment in the Royal Engineers despite his pacifist tendencies, brought his writing into sharp focus and gave it an increased dynamism. Most of the stories in The Last Inspection (1943) were concerned with the Army in England during the prolonged period of military inaction in Europe. The stories drawn from In the Green Tree (1948) are almost all set in India and include Lewis’ masterpiece, ‘The Orange Grove’, a ‘war story’ actually about the human condition, which reflected Lewis’ own sloughing off of material values.
Together, the stories in this volume represent the short fiction of a short writing career, yet one of great quality.
“The ordeals are seized upon by Lewis with such intense sensitivity, you can feel him living again in the reclamation of that experience… What a talent was lost to the world.” – Sunday Times
“Long overdue. Lewis was a true writer, and might well have been great.” – Financial Times
“His neglected stories are among the best of the mid-century.” – William Scammell
“His narratives, whether in verse or in prose, excite the reader with their moments of illumination… wonderfully touching and memorable. This book poignantly reminds us what an authentic, inventive literary talent was lost.” – Dannie Abse, Independent on Sunday