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This report is taken from PN Review 262, Volume 48 Number 2, November - December 2021.

Letter from Wales Sam Adams
For many years we spent a few weeks each summer in France. We took the car and drove as interest or whim prompted, over several days, to an arranged destination on the Côte d’azur. There we would spend a week before heading back to the channel ferry port by a different leisurely route. On our arrival in France, at the first opportunity, I would seek out a librairie and buy a book, hoping that reading would get my mind into gear to meet linguistic challenges ahead. I doubt it ever did that, the French I retained from Aber days having largely declined to the passive sort (though a few glasses of wine were known to stimulate both memory and fluency), but from time to time I picked up a paperback that gave me much more. So it was I chanced upon Alain-Fournier’s Le Grand Meaulnes, a book and an author that have haunted me for decades since.

Earlier this summer I came upon David Arkell’s Alain-Fournier: A Brief Life (1986). The sub-title carries a weighty burden of meaning, for the book is a particularly fine account of a life of vivid engagement with the world brutally cut short. Since Alain-Fournier was an admirer of Laforgue, it is entirely fitting that an advertisement on the dust jacket of the biography prompted me to seek out Looking for Laforgue (1979) and, as one thing leads to another, I found myself drawn to David Arkell and his own story, which includes being caught by the German advance across France in 1940 and interned for the duration of the war. Briefly, I was ...


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