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This article is taken from PN Review 67, Volume 15 Number 5, May - June 1989.

Uncancelled Challenge: Raymond Williams II Nicolas Tredell

Upward mobility, and the divisions it feeds on and nourishes, are key themes of Williams's first novel, Border Country, which came out in 1960, the year in which he moved from East Sussex to Oxford to become Resident Tutor for the Extra-Mural Delegacy. As Kevin Davey pointed out in PNR 51, relatively little attention has been paid to Williams's novels, though of all his books, these have taken up proportionately more of his time. Williams himself believed Border Country had 'in its particular and quite different way, an essential relevance' to Culture and Society and The Long Revolution (LR, 15) - and, by implication, to the rest of his work.

The novel was long in gestation; it went through seven versions before it finally appeared (CC, 359). The story starts as Matthew Price, now a lecturer in London, arrives back in Glynmawr, the village of his boyhood, to see his father, Harry, who is seriously ill after a coronary. In a series of flashbacks, intercut with Matthew's attempts to relate, inwardly and outwardly, to his sick father, Williams presents, among other events, Harry's arrival, as a young signalman, in the village; Matthew's birth - he is, significantly, a man with with two names, registered by his father as Matthew, but known in the village as Will, his mother's preferred name; and Harry's friendship with Morgan Rosser, who is also, at first, a signalman, and Harry's comrade in the General Strike, but who, upwardly mobile, leaves to set ...


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