Akenfield: Portrait of an English Village by Ronald Blythe

By Ronald Blythe

Woven from the phrases of the population of a small Suffolk village within the 1960s, Akenfield is a masterpiece of twentieth-century English literature, a scrupulously saw and deeply affecting portrait of a spot and folks and a now vanished lifestyle. Ronald Blythe’s extraordinary booklet increases enduring questions about the relatives among reminiscence and modernity, nature and human nature, silence and speech.

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Example text

He will often envy the old indigenous stock—there are eighteen families in Akenfield descended from people living in the village in c. 1750—but in effect his life will be far freer than theirs. The sometimes crushing, limiting power which the village exerts on families which have never escaped will be unknown to him. The new villager’s attitudes are deeply coloured by the national village cult. In Akenfield, evidence of the good life, a tall old church on the hillside, a pub selling the local brew, a pretty stream, a football pitch, a handsome square vicarage with a cedar of Lebanon shading it, a school with jars of tadpoles in the window, three shops with doorbells, a Tudor mansion, half a dozen farms and a lot of quaint cottages, is there for all to recognize.

Fussell. The English Rural Labourer. Batchworth, 1949. P. Wilson Fox. Report on the County of Suffolk. Royal Commission on Agriculture, 1958. W. P. Baker. The English Village. , 1953. E. Morris. History and Art of Change-Ringing. Chapman and Hall, 1931. W. Fream. Fream’s Elements of Agriculture. Murray, 1962. A. Klaiber. Story of the Suffolk Baptists. Highgate, 1931. C. D. Harris. Geography of the Ipswich-Orford Area. Unpublished thesis, Ipswich Reference Library. Reg Groves. Sharpen the Sickle!

The words echoed in the most ruined field and at the most despairing of seasons. The townsman envies the villager his certainties and, in Britain, has always regarded urban life as just a temporary necessity. ” To accommodate the almost religious intensity of the regard for rural life in this country, and to placate the sense of guilt which so many people feel about not living on a village pattern, the post-war new towns have attempted to incorporate both city and village—with, on the whole, disheartening results.

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