Alun Lewis: A Life

John Pikoulis
Publication Date: 
Tuesday, May 1, 1984
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Alun Lewis (1915-1944) is one of the most impressive and important writers of the century. The leading author of World War Two, perhaps the leading poet, he is still an influential figure, particularly in his native Wales. In this new and revised edition of his biography John Pikoulis draws on unpublished material and Lewis’s now extensively available work to present a portrait of the man: passionate, thoughtful, serious with an often romantic nature.

From his childhood days in the depressed valleys of south Wales, Lewis felt he had a vocation to be a writer. Pikoulis traces Lewis’s development from the remarkable schoolboy stories written as an unhappy boarder, through his university education at Aberystwyth and Manchester to his return to the valleys as a teacher. His extended treatment of Lewis’s military service, especially in India and Burma (where he was to die aged twenty-eight), reflects his standing as a war writer.

Lewis’s poems and stories, authentic and moving, were popular with both readers and critics, catching the tone of the ’phoney war’ years and later the disturbing but exciting experience of his war in India. His vivid letters home, which have been compared to Keats’s letters, capture both the atmosphere of war and the essence of Lewis’s character, and Pikoulis draws on them, and on contemporary photographs, to portray a fascinating man and writer.

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