Ralph Bates (writer)

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Ralph Bates in 1938. Photo by Carl Van Vechten.

Ralph Bates (3 November 1899 – 26 November 2000) was an English novelist. He is best known for his writings on pre–Civil War Spain.

Life[edit]

Bates was born in Swindon, England in 1899 and as a teenager worked at the Great Western Railway factory. In 1917, he enlisted in the British army and served in World War I, training soldiers on preparing for poison gas attacks.

After returning from the war, he began to travel, first to France and then, in 1923, to Spain, where he had wanted to visit since boyhood (his great-grandfather, a steamer captain, was buried in Cadiz). He stayed in the country permanently from then on, traveling and doing odd jobs. He published his first work, Sierra, a collection of short stories, in 1933; in 1934 he followed up with a novel, Lean Men.

When the Spanish Civil War began in 1936, Bates enlisted with the government forces and eventually made rank of political commissar. He helped to organize the International Brigade. Later that year he traveled to the United States to raise awareness of the plight of the Spanish Republic.

The year also saw the publication of Bates's best-known work, The Olive Field, about olive workers in southern Spain. The book received good critical notices in the United States.

Bates was briefly arrested for arms smuggling when traveling through France back to Spain in February 1937. Upon his return, he moved to Madrid and founded the International Brigade's newspaper, The Volunteer for Liberty. He frequently traveled to the United States and Mexico in 1937 and 1938, meeting his future wife, Eve Salzman on one trip.

Although it is disputed whether he was ever a Communist Party member, he had been sympathetic to Communism and friendly with many party members. After the Soviet invasion of Finland in November, 1939, however, he publicly condemned the Communists in an article for The New Republic.

After the overthrow of the Spanish Republic, Bates moved to Mexico, where he lived for a number of years, publishing The Fields of Paradise in 1940. In 1947, he became a professor of creative writing and English literature at New York University, a post he would hold until his retirement in 1966. He published his last book, The Dolphin in the Wood, in 1950, although he would continue to work on several unfinished writings up to his death 50 years later.

After his retirement, he moved with his wife to the Greek island of Naxos, where he pursued his lifelong hobby of mountain-climbing well into his 80s. He died in Manhattan in 2000, and his cremated remains were scattered in Naxos.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Sierra (1933)
  • The Lean Men (1935)
  • Schubert (1935)
  • The Olive Field (1936)
  • Rainbow Fish (1937)
  • The Miraculous Horde and Other Stories (Jonathan Cape,1939)(Expanded US ed as Sirocco and Other Stories, 1939)
  • The Undiscoverables (1939)
  • The Fields of Paradise (1941)
  • The Dolphin in the Wood (1950)

References[edit]