By Ronald Blythe
Woven from the phrases of the population of a small Suffolk village within the Nineteen Sixties, Akenfield is a masterpiece of twentieth-century English literature, a scrupulously saw and deeply affecting portrait of a spot and other people and a now vanished lifestyle. Ronald Blythe’s magnificent ebook increases enduring questions about the family members among reminiscence and modernity, nature and human nature, silence and speech.
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Extra info for Akenfield: Portrait of an English Village
Faithful to the old prejudice of the superiority of literature as expression of the soul, he declared that he was unworthy of the honour that was bestowed on him by his election to the Académie française, and even at the time of his jubilee and the major congresses at which he appeared as the star he sheltered behind abstractions and symbols such as Science and Fatherland. When finally faced with the conclusions of positivism, he rejected these in the name of his Christian beliefs. 38 Literary criticism devoted to Zola, and even more so studies of Bourget and Barrès, have often questioned the seriousness of the references that Zola makes to science in The Experimental Novel or the preface to Thérèse Raquin, books that claimed the patronage of Taine and Claude Bernard, as well as by Bourget in his Essais de psychologie contemporaine (Bourget appealed to the authority of Taine and Renan),39 or again by Barrès, who sought support in racist theorists or psychophysiological investigation as a basis for his nationalist theses.
The ouvrierism of the anarchists and some socialist currents (sometimes present in those who, like Lafargue or Guesde, were themselves of intellectual origin) was a way of making their followers forget that they were not workers themselves. It goes a long way therefore towards explaining the political use of the term ‘intellectuels’. The new term replaced that of the old sense of ‘bourgeois’, which in the first half of the nineteenth century had lumped the ‘talents’ together with the employers.
The Intellectuel: Historical and Social Genealogy 31 Professionals and amateurs Indications based on official statistics give a rough picture of the change in scale of the intellectual field, but, despite their increasing precision – the result of a belated perception of the internal modifications of which these professions were the stage – they have the defect of confusing individuals who were heterogeneous in their status and degree of involvement in cultural production: in the literary sector, for example, journalists were lumped together with men of letters and publicists; in the artistic sphere, no distinction was made until the end of the period between performers, creators and reproducers.