Dan Davin was the author of the only substantial body of war fiction written by a New Zealand soldier during any of the wars of the 20th century in which the nation was engaged. The General and the Nightingale brings together Davin’s 20 war stories, some drawn from his war diaries and loosely based on his experiences as ‘a wartime scholar-soldier’ and those of his fellow soldiers in the British and New Zealand armies. They yield an unparalleled insight into the Kiwi or Anzac soldier at war during the Mediterranean and African desert campaigns of World War II. Editor Janet Wilson notes they can be read as ‘fictionalised accounts rather than imaginative fictions’. Born and raised in a working-class Catholic family in Southland, Davin was a Rhodes Scholar and had recently completed a degree at Oxford when he enlisted in the British Army in 1939. After receiving a commission in 1940 he successfully applied to be transferred to the New Zealand forces. He saw active service in Greece and North Africa, was wounded in Crete, and rose to become General Freyberg’s intelligence officer in the Italian campaign. The General and the Nightingale updates an earlier collection of Davin’s war stories published in 1986 as The Salamander in the Fire and long out of print. This new publication features comprehensive notes, a glossary, a chronology, a map of story locations, a bibliography and an extensive introduction by Janet Wilson. It is a companion volume to The Gorse Blooms Pale: Dan Davin’s Southland short stories (OUP, 2007), which is also being reissued.
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