Kilmartin wrote a highly amusing and illuminating account of his experience as a Proust revisionist, which appeared in the first issue of Ben Sonnenberg's quarterly in the autumn of 1981. The essay opened with a kind of encouragement: 'There used to be a story that discerning Frenchmen preferred to read Marcel Proust in English on the grounds that the prose of was deeply un-French and heavily influenced by English writers such as Ruskin.' I cling to this even though Kilmartin thought it to be ridiculous Parisian snobbery; I shall never be able to read Proust in French, and one's opportunities for outfacing Gallic self-regard are relatively scarce.
I know your head aches. I know you're tired. I know your nerves are as raw as meat in a butcher's window. But think what you're trying to accomplish - just think what you're dealing with. The majesty and grandeur of the English language; it's the greatest possession we have. The noblest thoughts that ever flowed through the hearts of men are contained in its extraordinary, imaginative and musical mixtures of sounds. And that's what you've set yourself out to conquer, Eliza. And conquer it you will.
Wars, wars, wars': reading up on the region I came across one moment when quintessential Englishness had in fact intersected with this darkling plain. In 1906 Winston Churchill, then the minister responsible for British colonies, had been honored by an invitation from Kaiser Wilhelm II to attend the annual maneuvers of the Imperial German Army, held at Breslau. The Kaiser was 'resplendent in the uniform of the White Silesian Cuirassiers' and his massed and regimented infantry...Strange to find Winston Churchill and Sylvia Plath both choosing the word 'roller,' in both its juggernaut and wavelike declensions, for that scene.