James Aldridge

James Aldridge was born in 1918 on the Island of Man near Scotland, in the family of an English writer. He spent his youth in Australia, then came to England in the 1930’s for the higher education, studied at Oxford and became a war correspondent.

He travelled a lot; he visited almost every corner of the front: Egypt, Greece, Spain, Iran. He spent almost a year in the Soviet Union (1944-1945). After the war Aldridge began to fight against colonialism and imperialism as severely as he did against the fascism during the war time. “Signed with their Honour” (1942), “The Sea Eagle” (1944), “Of Many Men” (1946) were of great importance among the novels of the war time. These books were the first record of the sufferings and hardships of millions of people fighting for their freedom and independence.

The action of “Signed with their Honour” takes place in Greece at the beginning of World War II. The Greek Patriots fight against the German and Italian fascists. But the ruling class and the upper levels of society are indifferent to the destiny of Greece. More than that, they betray the state interests to the invaders. The writer portrays the heroic fight with the occupants. The main character of the novel is John Quayle, a young English pilot. He honestly does his duty, fighting bravely against fascists. At first he is indifferent to the fate of Greece and the Greek people. He is not much concerned about the cause and purpose of the war. But step by step, he gradually comes to understanding of the situation in Greece and hypocrisy of British allies. He realizes that the people fight with both the occupants and their own rulers. The young man guesses where the truth is, he comes to know that the British Government is guilty of the defeat; its actions are directed to the suppression of the patriots rather than the rout of the enemy: “He mistrusted the whole war as an inanimate thing. He mistrusted the group he felt were misrunning it completely and utterly and with no feeling towards what it was all about. […] And standing above the whole thing was this desire not to go back into active operations until he knew where to go from this mistrust.” (Chapter 38). John “was movement, and without hopelessness. […] His slight cynicism was real. […] He was very sure of himself and he did not make mistakes. He would not be shot down in an air lane by accident…” (Chapter 20). But John Quayle has the tragic fate, and he is killed in the end.

The writer could brilliantly reflect the social and political situation in Greece. Moreover, he captured the certain historical period. His novels are permeated with sorrow and bitterness over the loss of lives, though lack of despair is characteristic for all novels of James Aldridge.

The name of James Aldridge is inseparable from the most progressive tendency in postwar English literature — that of the “anti-colonial” novel. His work “Diplomat” (1949) is one of the best novels. It deals with politics with a philosophical accent. Lord Essex, a traditional British diplomat, is sent to Moscow on business. A young scientist, McGregor who was brought up in Iran, has been appointed to help the diplomat. Thus the plot centres around these two characters. Essex is a typical representative of English imperialism, and McGregor, an intellectual who carries the illusion that science is independent of policy. The author reveals a wonderful atmosphere of the relations between Essex and McGregor. Soon McGregor becomes aware of Essex’s imperialistic aims. The writer depicts very vividly the real aims of Essex’s diplomatic mission and the way he weaves his net of intrigues against the Soviet Union and against the independence of Iran. The novel ends with a dramatic debate in the House of Commons, because McGregor has disclosed the real essence of Lord Essex’s expedition. Much attention is paid to the depiction of courage of the Iranian people, fighting for their rights and independence.

The Diplomat” has become an important landmark in English Literature. In June 1953 the World Peace Council awarded Aldridge the gold medal for the novel. This is a definite acknowledgement of the writer’s achievement.

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