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In the brilliant constellation of revolutionary novelists of the 1930's—Dos Passos, Malraux, Silone—only Ralph Bates is today scarcely remembered. This is unjust.  Bates, an English resident of Spain for many years, has been an American even  longer. Perhaps because he now writes principally about music, the new generation  of readers does not seem to know The Olive Field, (E. P. Dutton), his most ambitious  and most powerful novel. It is now out of print, but persevering book hunters may  be able to find it in secondhand-book shops. This truly extraordinary evocation of  Spain by one who came to it as a foreign radical must inevitably recall to us the  intensity with which Malraux attempted to assimilate his experience of the Orient to  his concept of the communist as literary hero.
                                                                                                                                                                             Harvey Swados {1}

We do not wish life to be a sequence of facts, we wish it to be a book or a picture, to be art.

                                                                                                                                                  Ralph Bates Dead End of the Sky

       
 



 
 

 
 
In the late 1930's Time Magazine said that the Swindon-born writer Ralph Bates was "a better writer than Ernest Hemingway". Author, mountaineer, political agitator, soldier, academic -Ralph Bates was all these things, and yet today he is hardly remembered in his home-town. Bates spent the first thirty years of his life in Swindon (he worked in the Great Western Railway factory) before moving to Spain. During the Spanish Civil War he fought in the Republican International Brigade. Later, he settled in America where he became a Professor of English Literature at New York University. Many of Bates’s novels and short stories, such as Sierra, Lean Men and The Olive Field, are set in Spain. Another book, The Fields of Paradise, contains stories written during a brief stay in Mexico. His final book, The Dolphin in the Wood, is a semi-autobiographical account of his early life in North Wiltshire. Ralph Bates died in New York in 2000, aged 101.
 
  • In the summer of 2014 I produced a small book about Ralph Bates. This was “Ralph Bates – Swindon’s unknown” author " (hereafter known as the Biography). It had taken me about 18 months to research and write the book, but, once the manuscript had left my hands, I began to learn more about Ralph Bates’s extraordinary life. And, I also discovered some facts which contradicted some of the things that I had said in the book.

    And this is the reason why I have created this web-site – The Ralph Bates Project – not to tell Ralph’s story over again, but rather to enable me to add additional material to what is already known. It will also be a chance to correct some early mistakes and will, I hope, encourage others to discover Ralph Bates.


If you have any addition material relating to Ralph Bates, or wish to contribute to this site, then please do contact me. And, if you wish to buy a copy of Ralph Bates – Swindon’s “unknown” author then, again, please get in touch.


1. Harvey Swados (October 28, 1920 - December 11, 1972) was an American social critic and author of  novels, short stories, essays and journalism. Although Swados calls Ralph Bates an "American", it should be noted that Ralph, who lived in American for half of his lifetime, retained his British citizenship throughout his life.