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This report is taken from PN Review 120, Volume 24 Number 4, March - April 1998.

Jon Silkin Jon Glover

It might seem natural to open by saying that Jon Silkin's death was largely unexpected and has left many with a sense of shock, loss and grief. It might also seem natural, knowing his tendency to query, to challenge and argue, to feel Jon's spirit asking some questions about these reactions. But first, some facts. His grandparents on both sides came from Lithuania; his mother was brought up in South Wales and his father in London. From a background of miserable poverty (his paternal grandfather 'cleaned the toilets of the Synagogue, gave Hebrew lessons, and sold fruit off a barrow'), the family 'professionalised' itself, entering the law and politics. From the extended family came warmth, 'squabbling excitement' and energy as well as respect for the mind. He remembered League of Nations meetings and discussions at his house in the years up to 1939 and his consciousness of the European move to war grew in an atmosphere of intellectual and personal involvement that was real and strangely unifying despite (perhaps because of) his youth. Refugees stayed at the house, he was evacuated to Kent then to Wales. He returned for two years to Dulwich College from the end of the war in 1945 and was then expelled for truancy. He had tried to learn the clarinet, ineffectively, and then turned to poetry since he seemed determined not to devote himself to formal study (Latin). At seventeen he became a filing clerk and then a journalist. At eighteen he asked for ...


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