A Fighting Withdrawal
The Life of Dan Davin, Writer, Soldier, Publisher
First edition, hardback in dustwrapper. 22 × 14.5cm, 469pp.
Dan Davin was a man of paradoxes: a New Zealander who lived most of his life in Oxford; a man of action who fought in the front line during the Second World War, and made his reputation as a publisher and novelist; a devoted family man who nevertheless led a passionate personal life outside his marriage. Born into an Irish Catholic working-class family in the New Zealand province of Southland, Davin prospered through his intellectual prowess, eventually winning a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University in 1935. At the outbreak of war he joined the army and served with the New Zealand Division in Greece, Crete, North Africa and Italy. The future official historian of the Crete campaign, he served in army intelligence before settling in London and then Oxford, where he began publishing his novels and formed friendships with fellow writers including Dylan Thomas and Julian Maclaren-Ross. Rising to a position as Academic Publisher at Oxford University Press, he was instrumental in the publication of major scholarly works and became the friend and confidant of Louis MacNeice, Joyce Cary, A. J. P. Taylor and many others. His often turbulent private life, in contrast to the domestic stability of the home that he made with his wife and three daughters, was nevertheless central to a creative temperament that was forced, in the final years of his life, to grapple with drink and depression. Keith Ovenden, who knew Dan Davin over a number of years, draws on public and private papers to paint a compelling portrait of his complex subject, in a biography that charts one man's personal growth against the background of war and the literary-intellectual milieu of post-War London and Oxford.
This copy is in very good condition, with some light surface abrasions to the wrapper.