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To write something worthwhile...

The first mention in the journals of Dick’s desire to become an author is in 1927, when he was 17 years old, living in Berlin, as a student on a one-year German language course at Berlin University. Whilst there, he met Frieda Lapiner, a young Russian who was living in exile in Berlin, with her mother. Dick fell in love, and had grandiose visions of romanticism being the only way to save the world from its ‘present peril’. He began to write short stories, with this first, very passionate love affair with Frieda forming the basis of his plots.

"I am in Heaven now, listening to music, rejoicing in the beautiful friendship and perhaps love of darling, darling Frieda. I am in Heaven. I think I shall write a story called 'In Heaven'. I think of writing a book of short stories, I dream of it all day. I want to be an author. I hate the idea of the Foreign Office. I want something quite independent, with every prospect and where I only rely on myself for success.

The names of the other stories, before I forget are to be 'Lord Richard', 'Goodnight', 'The Flower Woman', 'Variete', 'Silhouette', 'Ballet', 'The Statue'; I think I had thought of some more which I hope I shall remember later.

But deeds not words are what I need. I always dream. But I have never yet accomplished anything". March 3rd 1927.

On completing the course in Berlin, he rejects his family’s plan that he should join the Foreign Office and decides to get "a job in business" so that he can afford to marry Frieda. His journal suggests that the family disapprove of Frieda, and that he will not benefit from family financial support if he chooses to marry her. He gets a job for a year with a company called Steel’s. He does not write in his journal whilst working for them, but later says that he loathed it. He decides that becoming a famous author is the only way that he will be able to marry Frieda and embarks on a series of novels, the plots of which he maps out in the journals.

I have found one short story of Dick’s that was published in February 1931 in Colour - the magazine that he worked for. Called Unfinished Symphony it is written under the pen name of Richard Yvery. Dick explains,

I sold them (Colour) the story of mine called Unfinished Symphony, which I managed to get into the February number under the pen name of Richard Yvery. This was my first story to be published. Nobody knows about it in England, that it is mine, except the Beddington’s and Joyce Nicholson. I have not told anyone, and managed to prevent the family seeing the February number, as I particularly did not want them to read this story. Of course, Frida knew and she was very sweet about it. April 7th 1931.

The story is light and very romantic. The female character, a Russian refugee called Anna, is based on Frieda, and all the lead male characters in Dick’s stories are based on himself. Interestingly, the character of Anna seems to predict the arrival of Sorina -

“Ah, I am old enough to be your mother” Anna declared and laughed gaily. “It would be very nice if you were”, I admitted, though I felt ashamed at my awkwardness in giving expression to my feelings.

The arrival of Sorina in his life prompted Dick to start writing Tomorrow We Die, a novel about a young man who falls in love with a much older woman.

Dick approached a number of publisher’s with his work, but I believe that Unfinished Symphony was his only work of fiction to be published. He continued to hope that he could ‘write something worthwhile’, and whilst at Bletchley attempted to write a travel book, based on his trip around the world in 1937. He admitted that the book was boring, and does not mention if he ever sent it to any publishers.

Later, much later, when he has taken early retirement from the BBC, and is working as a freelance translator, he hopes that he will have more free time and that he will be able to start writing fiction again.

"For the past three weeks I have in fact been working hard on translations from Germany for an English academic review called Universitas. Although I am not keen on translation work, this sort of stuff is worth doing. I would very much like to do original writing, particularly fiction, but I do not feel that my thoughts are yet sufficiently collected to start on this; so the offer of the translation work was rather timely.

If only I could write something worthwhile, that would be the real justification for my early retirement."

July 25th 1964

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