Christopher Logue adaptat[ed] books sixteen to nineteen of Homer’s Iliad and immediately [was] hailed as a masterpiece on both sides of the Atlantic. It was the culmination of a long, sustained effort that produced Patrocleia (book sixteen) and Pax (book nineteen) in 1962 and 1969 respectively...Christopher Logue was born in 1926 in Portsmouth, England and was educated at Prior Park College, Bath and Portsmouth Grammar School. At seventeen he volunteered for the Army, and in 1946 he was sent to Palestine, where he was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for the illegal possession of government property.
...By the time I had finished my training, the war in Germany was over and my unit was sent to Palestine. We, the British, were trying to stop large-scale Jewish immigration into Palestine—this was 1946. I was there for three months before I went to jail.
How did that happen?
How is easy to tell, why is hard to know. I think now that I contrived a way of getting the army to punish me. It was an act of spiteful masochism. I had by chance, but illegally, obtained six army paybooks, which were also identity documents. I announced to everyone in my tent that I planned to sell them to the Jews. I knew no Jews. I hardly knew what the word Jew meant. But I identified with those my side was against. I imagined myself as a Jew. It was provocative. You must remember that at this time British soldiers were being shot by Israeli terrorists who might have used army paybooks to gain access to a camp. I took the paybooks with me into Haifa, but no sooner had I reached the town than one of the men to whom I had announced my plan arrived with an officer and arrested me. I pleaded guilty to the charges and I said, If I had had guns I would have sold them too. They gave me two years, with eight months remission, and I served sixteen months.
Where was the prison? What was it like being a prisoner?
It was Acre, now Akko, a Turkish fort built on the site of a castle taken by Richard the Lionheart during the Third Crusade. I was put in with the Jewish prisoners because they were “white”—which meant European—under what was called Special Treatment, which was lucky for me, because the Palestinians were very badly treated, not physically, but like second-rate people, heaped up in crowded cells.
The governor of the prison was also the hangman, and when Jewish terrorists were to be hanged, he would hang them, and then come and inspect us. The condemned cell was close to our tower; we knew what was going on. Ours was one of four towers around the courtyard. I was in a tiny cell of my own with a view of the sea. I had books.
Just the place for a budding poet. Did you have many books?
I used the prison library. I read continually but unsystematically. While under arrest before my trial, one of my fellow soldiers gave me the American edition of Auden’s Collected Poems. As well, I had a complete Shakespeare and the collected works of Oscar Wilde.
(*) Read this interview and this section of another interview:
How much of the Mandate-era story could be said to be true? "The vast majority of it," says Kosminsky. Were two British intelligence officers kidnapped, tortured and lynched by the Irgun? Yes. In 1947, Sergeant Clifford Martin and Sergeant Mervyn Paice, both British military policemen, were kept in an airless hole in the ground for 18 days, and then hanged. Were young Jewish women paid as hostesses in city hospitality clubs for the purposes of propagandising about Israel to British officers? Yes. And for these women, old ladies now, the stigma still remains; somewhat ironically, Zionists accused them of fraternising with the enemy. Did British soldiers go AWOL, joining both Arab and Israeli fighters in the months leading up to Israel's declaration of independence? Yes. At one point, the only two tanks in the possession of the fledgling Israeli army were courtesy of defectors (the incentive was not always ideological; Haganah, another Jewish paramilitary group, offered huge sums of cash to defectors who brought military hardware with them). For the sake of drama, there are elisions. But critics will struggle if they accuse Kosminsky of exaggeration.