William Graves

WILD OLIVES

Life in Majorca with Robert Graves


Book review by Anthony Campbell. Copyright © Anthony Campbell (1999).

Robert Graves is a wonderful subject for a biographer and it's no surprise that several biographies of him have appeared in the last few years. This book is not a biography but it presents Graves from a different angle, for William Graves is his eldest son by his second marriage. Like the other children of this marriage, William was brought up in Majorca and so was bilingual or rather trilingual, for he speaks Catalan as well as Spanish like a native. The book is woven from several strands: there is a vivid picture of life in Deya, the village where they lived, just beginning to lose its air of enchantment as the twentieth century made its delayed impact; there is William's own story, which has plenty of interest of its own, and of course there is above all the relation with Robert himself. Looking at this now with adult eyes, William fills in details of his father's life which he came to know about only much later, as an adult.

Graves brought his family back to Majorca in 1946, just after the war, when William was five. The first part of the book is mainly about Deya and we see Robert through a child's eyes at this time. In 1954 William was sent to school at Oundle, in England; an experience he didn't enjoy. He went back to Deya in the holidays. Leaving school, he studied geology in London. After working for a time on an oil rig he went to Oxford to study archaeology and write a thesis; an unconventional arrangement, set up thanks to his father's influence.

Returning to Majorca, and married now, William decided to run a small pension for visitors. Robert by this time had become involved with a succession of young women, whom he called his muses, with one of whom William had a good deal of trouble. His relation with his father also went through a stormy 5-year period, although when Robert died William found, to his astonishment, that he had been named as executor of his father's Will. It seems likely that some of Robert's unreasonable behaviour in his later years was due to the incipient mental deterioration that later became tragically apparent and eventually rendered this brilliant poet mute and lost in a terrifying inner world he could not escape from.

This is an absorbing book which should certainly be read by anyone with an interest in Robert Graves.


%T Wild Olives
%S Life in Majorca with Robert Graves
%A William Graves
%I Pimlico
%C London
%D 1995
%G ISBN 0 7126 7474 8
%P \index{} + 262 pp
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