WEEKEND IN DINLOCK, by Clancy Sigal. Houghton Mifflin Co. 197 pages, 1960.
THE WAR IN ALGERIA, by Jules Roy. Grove Press. An Evergreen Target Book. 128 pages, 1961.
Here are two books—neither very large—both fitting quite easily into the pocket of one’s jacket. Both deal with worlds far removed one from the other, and equally apart from our own world: in one case, Weekend in Dinlock, a miners’ village in Yorkshire, England; in the other, the most murderous and long-drawn-out nationalist war of our time. Yet, despite this difference, I feel drawn to reviewing them together, to urging the reader to read them if not simultaneously then at least close to one another. Why? Because both clearly come out of an intense search for the truth, out of a desire to see things clearly, with precision and honesty. If the tone of both books is the tone of compassion, the trap of the sentimental fallacy is skirted because of each author’s competence and knowledgeability. Clancy Sigal knows what he is talking about; Jules Roy grasps every side of the Algerian tragedy. Thus, both writers have produced works of superior political journalism often bordering on imaginative writing at its best.
Clancy Sigal, a young American writer has written, among other things, a first-class account of the American air force in Britain and some provocative studies of young London delinquents. Here he has written an account of two visits, separated by six months, to Dinlock, an imaginary coalmining village in Yorkshire. In Dinlock he stays with a young miner friend who is also a talented, “natural” artist. Weekend in Dinlock presents the village, its people, their way of life with compassion and understanding. For this alone it is an exceptional example of documentary writing. But Sigal goes beyond this. The reader is drawn deeply by the spiritual drama of Davie, the young miner-artist who cannot tear himself away from the mine and whose very awkwardness in expressing his feelings about his life, his wife and family, his friends and Sigal himself, reveals the complex emotional web of Dinlock life. The power of the book — I am tempted to call it a novel—is measured by the tension set up between its author and young Davie. No doubt it is intended that way, and the filial scene—confrontation, rather—is set in Dinlock’s mine. Let me cite a passage written after Sigal has watched the colliers at work for an entire day.