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 awesome publication increases enduring questions about the kinfolk among reminiscence and modernity, nature and human nature, silence and speech.
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Extra resources for Akenfield: Portrait of an English Village
The book’s lasting power lies in the way it takes those lives, which might otherwise be missed or seem too circumscribed to draw in great detail, and renders them fully, richly, memorably. As Blythe later remarked: “I think my view of human life is how brief and curious most people’s lives are. ” In 2004, the writer Craig Taylor was commissioned by Granta magazine to return to the village in Suffolk on which Akenfield was based to see how things had changed in the generation since the book appeared.
ACRES 1936 1966 wheat 185 238 barley 147 572½ oats 19 23 potatoes ¾ 36½ beans and peas for stock-feeding 107 27 turnips, swedes and fodder beet for stock 3 — kale for stock-feeding — 5¼ sugar-beet 76 116¾ vetches, taws and lucerne 14 — clover, sainfoin for mowing, grazing 136 26 permanent grassland for mowing, grazing 486 131 rough grazing 31 1½ vegetables for human consumption (not potatoes) 7 127½ ORCHARDS AND OTHER FRUIT Acres 1936 1966 commercial orchards 76 120¾ other orchards 9 7¼ small fruit 14 53¾ BARE FALLOW Acres 1936 1966 fallow 61 17½ STOCK 1936 1966 cattle 266 111 sheep 115 750 pigs 674 1278 poultry 3293 24105 1.
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.
Akenfield: Portrait of an English Village by Ronald Blythe