Bognor Boy: How I Became an Anarchist is a colourful and lyrical early memoir covering the life of Peter Marshall between 1946 and 1970. As the younger son of a hairdresser and fighter pilot (who became a racehorse trainer), he describes his family background as well as what it was like growing up after World War II in Bognor Regis, a seaside town on the Channel.
The memoir vividly shows how a boarding grammar school in the Sussex Downs tried unsuccessfully to make him conform. After a year training in London as a Purser Cadet he travelled in the Merchant Navy around the world which both depressed and inspired him. This was followed by teaching English in Dakar, Sénégal, where his love life flourished and he discovered Africa.
He returned to England at the height of the ‘swinging sixties’, a period of personal and social liberation, and took a degree in French, Spanish and English. Always a rebel and feeling the world could be a much better place, Peter Marshall’s compelling journey takes us from the sunny beaches of Bognor, around the world and back to England, during which time he develops a vision of radical and peaceful change.
‘It is propitious that Peter Marshall's Bognor Boy appears at the 50th anniversary of the momentous revolutionary year of 1968. The book is valuable for many reasons, but not least of all as a major document of the generation of 68 and its living legacy. It is an important work, not only of biography, but of social history.
It has a rich sense of time and place, and paints a vivid picture not only of Bognor Regis, but of the culture of post-war England, continuing through the 60s. Marshall, a gifted story-teller, tells a compelling tale of personal and social evolution. The narrative progresses through careful attention to the details of everyday life, exemplified perhaps most strikingly in Marshall's exploration--perhaps demolition--of the worlds of education and work. Throughout the book, he depicts brilliantly how the dialectic between large institutions and small personal incidents leads to insights and awakenings, and thus shapes character, values, and political evolution.
At the outset, we discover a young man who is naturally sensitive to the injustices, cruelties, brutalities, prejudices, and absurdities of society. At a certain critical point in history, the facts of personality converge with the facts of history. New possibilities for personal freedom, liberated imagination, and radical social transformation emerge. The springtime of freedom becomes the springtime for Peter Marshall. He becomes what he was always becoming. He becomes an anarchist.’
John Clark, Emeritus Professor, philosopher and author
'Peter Marshall is a rare soul: writer, philosopher, poet, sailor, and a man with an unusually developed social conscience defined by his long interest in history and radical politics beside his grasp of the esoteric as essential to our personal and spiritual development. His work in every sense is the ‘bigger picture’ and is absolutely of our time. I was fascinated to see how all this came into being in this beautifully written memoir.'
Jay Ramsay,poet and author
'Peter Marshall found a silver lining in growing up in a philistine, one-parent, middle-class family that exiled him to boarding schools. He discovered the right books, listened to jazz, took to the sea, and thought for himself. His autobiography will chime with freedom-lovers everywhere.'
Max Farrar, Emeritus Professor, sociologist and author
‘“I wanted my life to be an open field of unexpected opportunities, not a closed future,” Peter Marshall writes in his inspiring chronicle of a boy’s progress from a small seaside town in Sussex to a career at sea to the beginnings of a new life as a writer, thinker, traveller, and anarchist. Bognor Boy gives us, in beautiful detail, the experience of growing into a young rebel while the world races to catch up with you. That the world he describes is the ’60s—in the U.K, the U.S., post-colonial Africa, and the Paris of May 1968—only underscores the fact that the inheritance of that amazing decade was built out of the brave lives of the people who came of age then. Like Peter Marshall. Bognor Boy charts one soul’s path to freedom, not to mention the yearnings that produced one of the finest radical historians and philosophic speculators of our time.’
Eric Laursen, activist, organizer, and author
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