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This interview is taken from PN Review 59, Volume 14 Number 3, January - February 1988.

in conversation with Charles Tomlinson at Sixty Richard Swigg


Richard Swigg - Do you feel that making these recordings for Keele and so close to the place where you were born - Stoke on Trent - has taken you back to beginnings?


Charles Tomlinson - It has in several ways. It's made me sense the continuity with those days when I was at school here and starting dimly to apprehend, while studying French, German and Latin in wartime, that Europe existed and that in trying to write, as I did round about sixteen, that I was joining in something bigger than myself, that, as a boy from an ordinary English background, I was entering into conversation with all those mighty foreigners we'd been learning to read - Ovid, Racine, Hugo, Lamartine, Baudelaire, Heine, Rilke. I was particularly lucky in having extremely well-educated teachers of French and German. What schoolboy in Stoke in 1986 has started on Baudelaire and Rilke? Cecil Scrimgeour, our French master - someone very active in the WEA in these parts - and one of the finest teachers ever, also gave us marvellous classes on tragedy. I think one of the most moving experiences I had was when he was explaining Aristotle's Poetics to us and suddenly I found my heart was beating twenty to the dozen just at the thought that here I was in 5th century B.C. Athens on a Thursday afternoon bandying around words like catharsis and anagnorisis. I looked out of the window and there ...


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